Drunken troops appeared to sexually assault a young airman in a vile initiation rite caught on video.
Reminiscent of abuse suffered by Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, footage of the shocking incident was obtained by the Daily Mail.
It shows a naked airman being held down by rowdy, inebriated troops before they allegedly assault him. A criminal investigation is now under way.
RAF police investigators will decide whether the airman was forced to go through the grotesque ordeal.
The Air Force insisted it did not tolerate bullying or initiation rituals. But military experts fear the video will cause huge damage to the reputation of the RAF and the Armed Forces generally.
Defence chiefs are said to be furious because they have worked to stamp out bullying and ensure that initiation ceremonies, once a staple of military life, were no longer tolerated.
The incident took place recently in the UK at the end of a course in which RAF Regiment personnel were taught to fire mortars.
The regiment, whose headquarters are at RAF Honington in Suffolk, is responsible for protecting military airfields.
Drunken troops appeared to sexually assault a young airman in a vile initiation rite caught on video, obtained by the Daily Mail (pictured)
The disturbing video shows the troops spitting mouthfuls of lager at the airman’s backside.
His legs are then forced apart as the 4ft barrel of a mortar, which weighs 28lb, is lowered behind him.
The weapon’s ball-shaped socket is then used on the airman as his raucous colleagues slap his buttocks.
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the act of ‘assault by penetration’ carries a custodial sentence of up to 19 years for the worst offences. A key issue in such cases is consent.
Tobias Ellwood, Tory chairman of the Commons defence committee, said last night: ‘Thankfully this deplorable incident does not reflect the high standards of behaviour now exhibited across all three services and huge progress made in removing the culture of initiation practices that have no place in our modern military.
‘But this incident, however isolated, will temporarily damage the fine reputation of the RAF.’
He added: ‘The Ministry of Defence will need to act swiftly and purposely to repair this damage – not just because past generations of our flying heroes would demand it – but because recruiting the next generation of pilots and personnel will be all the more challenging.’
The video shows a naked airman being held down by rowdy, inebriated troops before they allegedly assault him. A criminal investigation is now under way. RAF police investigators will decide whether the airman was forced to go through the grotesque ordeal
A RAF spokesman said: ‘We have been made aware of an offensive video involving Royal Air Force personnel.
‘The RAF Police Special Investigation Branch is now investigating the incident shown in the video. It would be inappropriate to comment further while investigations are ongoing.’
In July last year Defence Secretary Ben Wallace launched an anti-bullying 24/7 telephone helpline for service personnel across the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to allow troops to report any abuse or harassment.
It is staffed by qualified counsellors who provide emotional support, information and guidance to callers.
The regiment, whose headquarters are at RAF Honington in Suffolk (pictured), is responsible for protecting military airfields
Mr Wallace said at the time: ‘Our personnel selflessly serve our nation day in and day out and they deserve to be treated equally, with dignity and respect, both on and off duty.
‘I want everyone to feel proud of this team. There is simply no place for bullying in our Armed Forces and I am determined to stamp this out. Our helpline is an important next step.’
But the 75-second video would appear to suggest that drunken initiation ceremonies for junior personnel continue, even though they are rarer than before.
In 2019, Royal Marines taking part in a multi-national exercise to prepare for any future conflict with Russia scrawled a Nazi swastika on the chest of a comrade in another such ceremony. Again, the incident was filmed on a mobile phone and the footage was soon shared on social media.
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the act of ‘assault by penetration’ carries a custodial sentence of up to 19 years for the worst offences. A key issue in such cases is consent. Pictured: Royal Air Force Honington
Such was the level of embarrassment felt by commanders that top brass even considered banning Marines units from taking part in similar exercises.
In 2016 an Army private launched a legal action against the Ministry of Defence after he was forced to quit the ranks due to injuries sustained in a violent initiation ceremony.
Oliver Scudder claimed he was pressured to run down a corridor lined by fellow soldiers who struck him with punches and kicks.
Pictured: Badge of the RAF regiment
He was left with 90 per cent loss of vision in his right eye and was medically discharged from the Army after tripping and taking a boot to the face.
He said that he felt he had been coerced into taking part in the corridor run and was hit and kicked from both sides by lance corporals and corporals.
He had joined his unit, the Royal Anglian Regiment, only nine days previously.
During the UK’s long military campaign in Afghanistan the RAF Regiment protected Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand province.
This role required the regiment’s troops to be proficient in military skills more commonly taught to Army soldiers, including how to load and accurately fire mortars.
It is thought the airmen in the video were learning to use the 81mm variant of the mortar weapon system. It is not known at which base the video was filmed.
RAF Regiment mortar teams are trained to drop high-explosive bombs on enemy targets.
They use different types of ammunition, including infrared illumination and white phosphorus to create dense smoke screens to cover the movement of ground troops.
GENERAL LORD DANNATT: This degrading act that defies comprehension
Commentary by General Lord Dannatt for the Daily Mail
I was utterly horrified to learn about the most recent incident of sexual misconduct and bullying allegedly carried out by members of one of our Armed Forces.
Degrading acts against another person – another colleague on whose life in combat your own might depend – have no place in our services.
Respect for others is at the heart of the core values of our military, and these values are taught now as part of the recruit induction process – and certainly, in the case of the Army, refreshed on an annual basis.
If that respect is not at the heart of military life then bullying in training, sexual harassment in the barracks and unwarranted acts of violence against civilians on deployed operations become tolerated, even perhaps the norm. This is totally unacceptable.
In 2003 in Basra, soldiers from a now defunct regiment administered more than 90 blows to the body of Baha Mousa. He died. A court martial followed, yet the behaviour that could lead to such appalling actions still seems to take place. This is not acceptable in a civilised society in the 21st century.
GENERAL LORD DANNATT (pictured): I was utterly horrified to learn about the most recent incident of sexual misconduct and bullying allegedly carried out by members of one of our Armed Forces
If this country wants to play a serious role as ‘Global Britain’, we must ensure that our ambassadors in military uniform behave to the highest standards.
What they learn in training will define their actions in combat – under the glare of the world’s media. The legislation currently going through Parliament – the Overseas Operations Bill – is all about protecting our military people from vexatious investigations and prosecutions.
But behaviour such as that alleged against a group of inebriated RAF personnel undermines its basic premise.
As a nation, we need to have confidence that soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines operating in our name abroad behave to the highest standards.
And at home, in training, we do not want to read of disgusting actions by a group of comrades allegedly violating one of their own. This is totally unacceptable and a violation of any sense of decency.
To project a mortar barrel into the private parts of another human being is sick beyond belief and a degradation that defies comprehension.
General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL was Chief of the General Staff, 2006-2009.
Wicked stunts leave rookies humiliated
By Kumail Jaffer for the Daily Mail
The military has previously been mired in shocking cases of newer recruits being humiliated.
Two rookies were allegedly forced to rape each other in an initiation ceremony at Pirbright Barracks in Surrey, with the footage passed round the unit.
At the time it was revealed in 2016, a source told The Sun on Sunday that the footage was ‘horrific’ and was ‘worse than anything I have ever known in the Army’.
The same year three Royal Marines were sentenced to military detention after an initiation ceremony subjected a colleague to ‘40 minutes of depravity and naked humiliation’.
In 2014 Carlo Nicholson was made to drink urine and to vomit during a ceremony in Arbroath. The 22-year-old, who said he was water-boarded, said the incident made him have ‘suicidal thoughts’.
Inquests into the deaths of four recruits at Deepcut Barracks, Surrey, between 1995 and 2002 also revealed allegations of bullying and harassment.
In 2019 it was revealed that at least 122 Army instructors had been court-martialled or disciplined in the four years prior for abuse of recruits and other misconduct.