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Home > Media

This Was An Awfully Strange Marine

3 December 2005

At the weekend, The News of the World got its sticky paws on some lurid video of Royal Marine recruits and proceeded to wave it around in one hand while clamping the other to its horrified mouth. The video shows what looks like 'Opportunity Knocks' in one circle or other of hell - men with rubbery gym mats wrapped around their arms walloping twenty bells out of each other in the stark naked nude. Violence *and* nudity - jackpot! But it's not actually especially funny. Indeed, after the mats come off, it gets pretty nasty. The whistleblower who punted the footage in the tab's direction talks about recruits being made to crawl naked through thorn bushes, and being tortured with electrodes. Bit nastier than being made to mop the latrines, even with your
own hair.

It's hideous, of course; but there's a difference between shock at the sight of something, and shock at the idea of it, and in this case the former should be able to beat up the latter. Is anyone really flabbergasted that horrifically violent and dehumanising initiation rituals go on in the Marines? Human beings may be naturally bellicose bastards, but most of them still need a leg-up if they're going to be efficient, unemotional soldiers. In this case the leg-up is more like a shin in the face, but it probably does the trick. Killing people without a flinch requires a certain extreme focus; to make relatively sane people capable of it, you need to do drastic things. In the enclosed bubble of the military, this sort of abuse is probably germane to the process of creating killers - if you can take that, you can take anything.

It shouldn't be happening; it seems to be the sort of endemic problem to which the top men turn a blind eye, maybe because it seems to work. Humiliating, bone-breaking training-by-torture is absolutely *fine*, as long as it's by the book. And as long as no one says anything about being gay, ever. But the military has always been a mysterious enclave with its own rules, mostly alien to the rest of us. The flurry of recruitment ads for the Marines, the Army and the RAF this year didn't help to prepare any wide-eyed young things for the toughness of training and the ghastliness of the job itself, being as they were gorgeously sanitised films that made it all look like a good laugh. It's all
about being the best you can be, about learning new skills, about swinging from big ropes like you used to do up at the place by the lake those lazy summer days. Never mind being forced to scrap in the nude - new recruits who buy into the advertised dream would be aghast the first time an officer called them 'an
'orrible little maaan' instead of giving them a hearty, manly clap on the back for swimming across some rapids.

What other hard military truths are going to be a shock to the system of the wet-behind-the-ears new Marine bug?


1) The sticky biscuit game doesn't actually involve fig rolls.

2) It's somewhat more physically demanding than Tour of Duty on

3) It's the only time that training as an IT specialist /
mechanic / caterer can result in getting your head blown off.

4) The beds aren't all that comfy.

5) Er... you might have to, kind of, kill some people
occasionally. Yeah - sorry. It's in the small print.

Action Men.

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