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Professor Bernard McGuirk’s claims on service personnel suicides are wrong

15 November, 2018

War memorial in Stanley, Falkland Islands [Photo: john5199 flickr]

• PROFESSOR Bernard McGuirk claims that, since 1982, suicides among veterans of the Falklands task force have equalled the 255 combat deaths during the war, (Have our veterans been betrayed? November 8). This is not true.

In 2013 a Ministry of Defence study found that, of 21,432 Falklands veterans, 95 had died in cases recorded by coroners as suicides or open verdicts, which is within the norm for the population at large.

Suicide is the commonest cause of death for men under 40 and remains a leading cause of death for older men too. But suicides have declined from 14 per 100,000 per annum in 1981 to 10 in 2017.

The overall death rate from all causes among Falklands veterans – 1,335 by December 31 2012 – is considerably lower than the 2,000-plus that would be predicted by national norms, simply because military personnel tend to be fit and self-reliant.

It is not a good idea to try and persuade ex-service personnel that they are uniquely prone to suicide. In fact they are not, but a minority might be vulnerable if ill-inten-tioned journalists and academics keep trying to drum that false idea into them.

Speaking personally, I could also have done without your editor’s false claims about our country’s part in the Great War of 1914-18. (Why we should never forget, November 8).

Britain joined the Great War, not for any “colonial” reason that might exist in the imagination of communists, but to support our ally, France, against a pre-planned aggression by Germany.

My grandfather served through all four years on the Western Front, was wounded three times and always returned to action, and on demobilisation was granted an officer’s 100 per cent disability pension on grounds of shell shock.

He did not do all that for any “imperial” reason but for his country’s and Europe’s good.

HUGO BARNACLE
Croftdown Road, NW5

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