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Old conflicts still haunt KOSB veterans

Army demilitarisation in Northern Ireland - KOSB soldiers Scott Moscrop (right) and Darren Foley watch over the watchtower, now unmaned and awaiting removal, on a hilltop in South Armagh  ... Pic Donald MacLeod 31.10.01

Army demilitarisation in Northern Ireland - KOSB soldiers Scott Moscrop (right) and Darren Foley watch over the watchtower, now unmaned and awaiting removal, on a hilltop in South Armagh ... Pic Donald MacLeod 31.10.01

Seven years after the last British soldiers left Northern Ireland, the conflict continues to haunt veterans of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

A report issued recently by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research looked at the mental impact on soldiers from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Peter Poole, Deputy Chief Executive of the charity, Combat Stress, said the organisation was encouraged that measures put in place by the UK Armed Forces to support serving personnel are having results.

But he added: “Nevertheless, the rate of those suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is worrying.”

Combat Stress is currently treating 806 veterans who served in Iraq and 519 who served in Afghanistan.

But while it is those wars that have made most headline news in recent years, old conflicts such as Northern Ireland and even Aden continue to blight the lives of many of those who served in them.

Operation Banner was the name given to the 38-year deployment of British troops in Northern Ireland, which only came to an end in 2007.

And Robert Lappin, a regional welfare officer for Combat Stress in southern Scotland, says the charity continues to see many former members of the KOSB.

“Our biggest case load remains those who served in Northern Ireland, including an awful lot of former KOSB soldiers,” he said.

“The KOSB spent a lot of time there and I think we’re going to see people needing help as a result of that for a good many years to come.”

Mr Lappin said part of the problem stems from ex-service personnel not coming from a culture where people speak openly about mental health issues.

“There is still a fear of stigma attached to it for many people, but that’s something we are desperately trying to reduce,” he said.

And Mr Lappin says Combat Stress is also keen that families and friends of ex-service personnel contact them if they are worried about someone.

Brigadier Allan Alstead is a former commanding officer of the KOSB who served with the regiment on numerous tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

“Many men would be unable to lead a positive life if it was not for the help that they receive from Combat Stress,” he explained.

 

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