The Ulster-born Iraq hero whose rousing eve of war speech made him a household name said yesterday Britain should offer far more support for former soldiers.
Colonel Tim Collins and other soldiers decorated for their service in the Iraq war have thrown their weight behind calls by Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC for more help for troops suffering from mental trauma.
Their intervention came as it was revealed yesterday that young veterans of conflicts are three times more likely than civilians to kill themselves.
In a demonstration of the courage that earned him the Victoria Cross, L/Cpl Beharry revealed at the weekend the mental anguish he still suffers five years after saving 30 comrades in acts of ‘repeated extreme gallantry’. He accused the Government of failing service personnel who suffer from combat stress and said it was disgraceful that some veterans were struggling to get treatment.
Colonel Collins added that while the work of charities such as Combat Stress should be praised, they were filling a gap that should be plugged by the Government.
“There is a broader issue of what we need to be doing, not only for those with mental illness and combat stress but also for those disabled as a result of |injuries,” said the former commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish.
He said Britain should be following the American example of offering far more support to those who had served their country, such as free education for veterans adjusting to civilian life.
Yesterday it was reported that suicide rates among Army, Royal Navy and RAF personnel have risen dramatically in recent years.
In a Manchester University study, experts from its Suicide Prevention Centre found three times the number of troops between 20 and 24 kill themselves compared with civilians of the same age, and 19-year-olds were twice as likely to take their own lives.