Armed forces

1 April 2023Feature

A counter-history of the SAS

The 22nd Special Air Service regiment, better known as the SAS, occupies a unique place in the British public consciousness. For many, it embodies notions of an elite level of valour and heroism coupled with the mystique of state secrecy and a certain roguish prestige.

Even within the military, these troops are often seen as almost supernaturally tough and skilled. A sense of barely-governed violence attaches to them, which results in nicknames like ‘blades’ and ‘pilgrims’.


1 February 2023Feature

Strike-breaking: using the armed forces to undermine workers’ rights

The UK is in the midst of industrial action on a scale not seen since the 1970s. With key public sector workers walking out over below-inflation pay offers, the government have asked the military to plug the gap. Drafting in the armed forces may keep some basic services running but it is also designed to weaken the power of unions. With the government threatening new anti-strike legislation, we should remember how military confrontation with strikers was the weapon of choice until the Second…

1 February 2023News

Military used diagnoses to 'get rid of the problem'

On 14 January, the Daily Telegraph published its latest investigation into sexual assault in the British army.

Danielle Sheridan, the paper’s defence editor, reported: ‘Hundreds of female members of the Armed Forces who accused their colleagues of rape were “misdiagnosed” with having a personality disorder.’

The women were medically discharged after seeking help for sexual assault and being ‘written off’ with emotionally unstable personality disorder.


1 August 2022News

Whistleblowers say weapons were planted to justify killings

SAS soldiers killed detainees and unarmed men in Afghanistan in suspicious circumstances on dozens of occasions, according to a BBC TV documentary broadcast in mid-July.

Military reports obtained by Panorama suggest that one SAS unit may have killed 54 people unlawfully in one six-month tour.

Whistleblowers from the SAS squadron told the BBC they saw SAS ‘operators’ kill unarmed people during night raids – and then plant AK-47 rifles to justify the killing.

1 April 2016Feature

Chris Venables details militarism's corruption of the European project

Over the last 20 years, a host of committees, agencies, and departments designed to foster cooperation on issues of defence and security between the Member States have been created. Far from being an inevitable consequence of European integration, this militarisation represents a corruption of the European project.

EU treaty law provides only a limited foundation for building military co-operation, but this has not been an impediment for member states eager to increase efficiency…

1 June 2015Review

Haymarket Books, 2014; 230pp; £12.99

I was looking forward to this book – an account of Rory Fanning’s walk across America in memory of his friend, Pat Tillman.

I am usually drawn to stories of individuals undertaking major endurance events, and this had the added bonus of being carried out by someone working for peace.

The comments on the back were all overwhelmingly positive so I was a bit disappointed that Worth Fighting For didn’t quite match my expectations.

It starts well enough,…

18 February 2014News

Dissenters in the ranks

On 10 December, 15 soldiers from 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment were sentenced to jail at Bulford Military Court for a concerted act of disobedience. (A 16th is yet to be sentenced.)

This courageous action was carried out during a parade in front of 1,000 other soldiers at Archers Post British army barracks in Kenya. The 16 soldiers were ordered to stand to attention, but instead their corporal, Anthony Brown, shouted ‘sit down’ and the dissenters dropped to…

1 November 2013Cartoon

2 July 2012News in Brief

In June, more than 4,000 British military personnel received redundancy notices (of which about a third are compulsory) in the largest single reduction in the last 20 years. In 2010, cuts were announced of 5,000 jobs each in the navy and air force, 7,000 in the army, and about 25,000 civilian jobs in the MoD.

A further reduction of 12,000 army personnel was then announced, which will cut army numbers to 82,000 by 2015.

The slimmed down force will have a much heavier emphasis on…

27 April 2012News

Former navy medic and conscientious objector Michael Lyons – who spent seven months in prison for his opposition to the war in Afghanistan (see PN 2538) – addresses the launch of Veterans for Peace UK on 9 April. Other speakers included Iraq war vets Matthew Horne and Danny Martin, D-Day veteran Jim Radford, Catholic Worker Scott Albrecht (who served in the US air force during the cold war) and Vietnam war resister Gerry Condon. The new group aims to resist war through nonviolent…

30 March 2012News

New UK group is launched.

On 9 April, Easter Monday, former SAS soldier Ben Griffin will officially launch Veterans for Peace in the UK. The group, founded in the US over 25 years ago, is committed to resisting war through nonviolent action.

Speaking at the event will be British and US veterans of the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ben Griffin said: ‘We live in a society that is constantly bombarded with one view of the wars that we…

1 December 2011News

Navy medic and conscientious objector Michael Lyons was released from Colchester military prison on 9 November. He had served a seven-month sentence for refusing to take part in rifle training in September 2010 because he disagreed with the war in Afghanistan, and was not prepared to shoot to kill. (PN 2537)

Supporters of Veterans for Peace, London Catholic Worker and Peace News raised over £1,000 to help Michael’s wife Lillian with the travel costs associated with visiting Michael in…

1 December 2011News in Brief

At the end of November, the Daily Telegraph learned that the British ministry of defence (MoD) had increased the number of soldiers due to be cut from the army from 7,000 to 16,500 by April 2015.

Up to a quarter of Britain's infantry battalions and almost half of its cavalry regiments could be disbanded.

Also in November, the national audit office (NAO) reported that financial incompetence by the MoD had led to delays in deploying new

Astute-class submarines, which in…

1 November 2011News

Imprisoned Egyptian pacifist blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad has been sent to Abbasseya psychiatric hospital for examination.

He has been on hunger strike since 23 August in protest at his conviction in March for violating article 184 of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalises any criticism of the military.

Maikel had published an article exposing the role of the military during and after the revolution, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison in a trial in front of a military court and without a lawyer. His appeal was scheduled for 4 October, but then adjourned because a file was missing.…

1 November 2011News

Michael Lyons, the navy medic who was jailed for seven months for refusing, on moral and ethical grounds, to attend rifle training, has lost his appeal against conviction.

He had been convicted of “wilful disobedience” after he asked not to participate in the training as he had applied for conscientious objector status. He was given 7 months detention, stripped of his rank as leading medical assistant and dismissed from the service.

On 13 October three judges sitting at the court of appeal rejected the challenge to his conviction and also dismissed his appeal against his “manifestly excessive” sentence. Last December he applied for dismissal on the…