When they betray you and treat you like how they treated me… it tore my heart mate. I was the first British soldier to refuse redeployment to Afghanistan. The level of violence was new to me. Fair enough, we killed Catholics. He didn’t deserve to die simply because of his beliefs. I don’t want my son killed by the fact that the people around him are incompetent only because of the colour of their skin. We did what we was told. Keep asking myself “what for?” My name is Joe Glenton. I served in the British Army for six years. Since leaving I have used my experience and insight to hold the military to account as a journalist. So I was the first British soldier to publicly refuse redeployment to Afghanistan. I’d already served in Afghanistan in 2006 and my experiences there led me to resist and reject the war on legal and moral grounds. In the end that would earn me a prison sentence in the military’s jail. Over the past few years I’ve seen the armed forces change and in this documentary I want to turn the lens onto the British military as an institution. Today, the army describes itself as an apolitical organisation, and adverts depict diversity and multiculturalism. But in an age of rising nationalism we’ve seen threats from the military directed towards left-wing politicians, soldiers posing with far-right figures, and revelations of endemic racism. So what are the politics of the British Army? Their press office turned down my interview requests, so I asked a former senior officer. It’s apolitical and it comes from all backgrounds. I would have soldiers in my regiment who would have very left wing views because they came from societies that were underprivileged and they had that view. Tim Collins was a Colonel in the Iraq War where he achieved notoriety for a rousing pre-battle speech, a transcript of which used to hang in the White House. But what they can’t be is a member of a political party or active in a political party. They can say, they can have a Corbyn poster or a Labour poster on their… there’s nothing to stop them. It’s the Parachute Regiment guys. Then Corbyn. Spattered with paint. So what do you make of that Phil? I think it leads on basically from all the scare stories from the press. Phil Rowan is a British Army veteran that served 21 years on the front line with the Fusiliers. There was an unnamed general saying if Corbyn wins, there may be some type of military coup. Corbyn is as a member of the IRA, Corbyn is a member of Hamas, Corbyn is a peace-loving hippie. I think in reality, his politics are very centre-left, Social Democrat politics that actually wouldn’t look out of place in like Iceland or Sweden. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t stand for mildly social democratic, he’s an out and out Marxist, he abhors the army. He’s an IRA sympathiser, I’m very clear about that. This nonsense of people paintballing pictures. These are… What do you make of that? They’re teenagers misbehaving, teenagers do that. But more than just teenagers misbehaving, this ‘mock execution’ echos threats made by serving soldiers on armed forces forums, where the Labour leader is a popular topic. Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser and a traitor to his country. He should hang. British Marxist terrorist loving anti-Semite. Why would the army have such a bee in their bonnet about left-wing politics? The British army actually is recruited, trained and organised on class lines. The real enemy of the working class is right-wing politicians. Well basically it’s nationalism, isn’t it? It’s where a lot of people in the forces seem to get sucked into, that politics. In this park just outside of Belfast, veterans and their supporters gather to remember 50 years since Operation Banner, when the British government sent troops into Northern Ireland, their longest ever continuous conflict. The soldiers and everybody else that took part in Operation Banner, they stopped this country from going into civil war. And I think they should have more recognition. How we worked here, wasn’t our doing, we was told what to do. I think it was the government’s dirty war. I spent 23 years in the British Army, and I keep asking myself ‘What for? What for?’ The level of disillusionment these veterans feel is something I and many other former soldiers can sympathise with. Kieran Devlin was in the British Army for five years. After leaving, a lack of state support led to a cycle of drinking and violence that ended in a prison sentence. When I came out of prison I decided I was going to get my life on track. And that’s where it all went wrong. I discovered the British National Party, a racist political party. What is it about the military that would push people in that direction? The British Army, as you know, instil several values: pride in your flag, pride in their imperialist conquests, and pride in the monarchy. So that’s what attracted me initially. Whenever I was looking for a political home, there was a party at the time who were willing to be overtly patriotic, stand up for their country. It’s common to find veterans at far-right street mobilisations, like those in support of Tommy Robinson and online veterans groups that I’ve been tracking are packed with far-right views. It was a natural home for for servicemen as I was later to find out they were heavily populated by members of the armed forces. I relayed Kieran’s explanation to Colonel Tim Collins. Do you recognise any truth in that characterisation? No. Again, it’s a Guardianista fantasy. How you would set about having a cabal of right wing extremists within the military… there’s any amount of these conspiracy theories the word you have to hang on here is ‘utter bollocks’. Tim Collins is still a company man and he loves the army. But in his mind it seems the army is under attack by Marxist-Leninists like Blair and Corbyn, multiculturalism, which seems to echo in my mind at least the rhetoric of what we would now call the alt-right. But it isn’t just veterans. Far-right sentiment is so widespread within the ranks of the army, that a guide for army officers was leaked to the press earlier this year to help them spot extreme right wing behaviours. I served alongside soldiers who were openly supportive of extreme right parties, but the army never took issue with their views. How is this culture instilled? Well it starts, very young. So we’ve just seen a number of young recruits go into this reserve centre. You can join the British Army with parental consent when you’re still 15. I would judge that the young men coming in here are in their late teens or early 20s a similar age to me when I was first thinking about joining the military. Turning up on my first day with a sense of anxiety but excitement and ready to take my first steps into the world of the military. The British Army is the only one in Europe to recruit 16-year-olds, who now make up a third of the army’s intake. I had been given permission by my mum and dad to go to the recruitment centre. Went to the recruitment centre, did my tests and signed a contract between myself, the monarchy, the government that I was going to join the army at the age of 15. Phil was recruited at 17, just after school, and joined an infantry battalion. The infantry are fighting soldiers the army’s teeth who are deployed to the frontline to get close to, and kill, the enemy. Basically in the infantry we hated everyone and that’s drummed into you from day one really. Every single day in the battalion was violence, you know what I mean. Against each other and against other regiments. Like I said, I was a boxer, I come from a council estate, the level of violence… was new to me. Some people joined for more economic reasons, some people for more ideological reasons but you weren’t a kind of Queen and country, Yeah it wasn’t about Queen and country, personally I needed the money. I needed a job. Although I, like Phil, joined for a lack of job prospects, the ideology is drilled in from the start. Principles like power, unquestioning submission to authority, violent mythology and ancestor worship are also associated with the far right, and are ingrained in military culture and training. The first time I experienced racism was when I was in training. The slurs, all these racial slurs… What kind of things did they say? You black bastard and all these words, you hear it from training. Inoke Momonakaya was recruited from Fiji in 2004. He served two tours in Iraq and was also in Afghanistan. What my superiors they saw, my chain of command, they didn’t like it that I was pushing myself to climb up the ranks. Inoke won a huge payout from the British government for the racist bullying he suffered. But his isn’t an isolated case. Evidence of white supremacy and racism in the army emerged from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even Prince Harry was caught using slurs. Our little Paki friend Ahmed. More recently, a serving Lance Corporal was found to be part of a banned neo-Nazi group and two soldiers of African origin are currently suing the army for ignoring racist abuse and the display of Nazi symbols. Among a number of complaints from Inoke was that he was forced to dress as a Taliban fighter in a training DVD. They called it an “awareness” DVD. The scenario is you are in Afghanistan and you have these Taliban soldiers… insurgents who are placing IEDs everywhere. And I found out that the soldiers who were portraying the British soldiers were all white soldiers. And all the insurgents were black people. The difficulty I would find with Fijians in my regiment who weren’t getting on is they’re very quiet, they tend to be deeply religious and don’t present themselves forward and sometimes to get on in the military you’ve got to be a bit presumptuous and you’ve got to push yourself forward… Did you come across issues of racism, prejudice of different kinds in your daily work? It simply wasn’t tolerated. Perhaps we are more sensitive than others. I went to Iraq in November of 2006. It was a hard tour, I seen some really bad stuff happen. And you lost friends? My mate Kingsman Hancock, we were there for nearly eight months. Given that you did what was expected of you, how did it feel to then be subjected to racial abuse, to be singled out because of where you’re from? The find out that the country you’re loyal to, that you’re willing to fight and die for. When they betray you and treat you like how they treated me. It tore my heart mate, I was really, I felt betrayed… A recent investigation found that there was a culture of bullying towards women and people of colour in the army, due to the “pack mentality of white middle-aged men”. What I would say as a parent, my son’s a serving Para Engineer. I don’t want my son killed so I don’t want him to go to a conflict situation hampered by the fact that the people around him are incompetent only because of the colour of their skin or they happen to own a vagina, that shouldn’t be a factor. The military establishment may not be happy with the idea of the army reflecting society. But to what extent does British society reflect the military and its values? So there are larges crowds which have gathered here particularly represented Americans who love soldiers marching about. So we’ve just seen the guards come past. And while they might look slightly ridiculous and are the butt of many jokes in the military from other units they’re all highly trained infantrymen, you can see from the medals on display that some of them will have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s clear from the uniforms that displays like this are nothing new in Britain. But after the unpopular Iraq War, the army have rebranded with public events like Armed Forces Day, and a drive to promote the ‘military ethos’ in schools by training veterans to be teachers and expanding their youth wing, the Cadets. Scholars have called it the ‘militarisation offensive’, and since it began, the army’s favourability went up from 54% in 2004 to 89% in 2011. But in Northern Ireland, militarisation and the far-right values that come with it, have been part of the landscape for a long time. You only need look at those who are supportive of the far-right they do come from one particular community. That being the unionist-loyalist community. From my time in the BNP, we recruited solely from that community. Since the partition of Ireland in 1921, Northern Ireland has been divided: with the Republican community on one side, who want to see a united Ireland, and the Loyalist community on the other, who want to remain British. In towns like this, this is primarily a unionist-loyalist town and the military are held in the highest regard possible. The amount of children that are going to be walking around in uniform. It’s very, very ugly to have children thinking that there’s something heroic or brave about taking somebody else’s life. This particular parade is organised by a veterans association but it features loyalist bands. Thousands of similar parades are organised by loyalist groups every summer, all of which imitate this military style. Members of other communities are not welcome to take part. As children, my parents would have taken me to see the 12th of July celebrations and things like that. Later on, obviously, as you know, when we were in the military, this would have been commonplace for us. These parades can run deep into the night, and quasi-military uniforms are a common sight at local pubs and takeaway shops. For me, it speaks to the extent to which militarism is ingrained in this culture, from all those years of war. Fiona Gallagher lived in a Republican area of Derry, on the other side of the country, at the height of the conflict. Constant intimidation, constant surveillance. You had to go through civilian search bays that were manned by the military police. And these were every so many hundred yards. Babies lifted out of prams, groceries taken out of bags, handbags searched. Everybody was searched. Everybody was patted down. What’s lost as we sit in this quiet square in Northern Ireland among these military vehicles, is what they’re actually for. To see kids playing on them, they’re somehow disengaged from their actual purpose and it’s important, I think, that that isn’t lost that these things are produced to kill people and destroy things. The Army exists to go to war. I saw how the British military exerted its values in Afghanistan. The focus was war-fighting, at the expense of the local population, who were regarded with indifference, suspicion and contempt. The Royal Naval College in Greenwich was used in colonial times to train Royal Navy officers to sail and conquer far away lands. It was founded a year before Britain colonised Fiji in 1874. As you know Fiji is deep in the South Pacific, we see the UK as the motherland. It’s on your flag, isn’t it? Yes. The British flag. We still have the Union Jack on our Fijian flag. We regard the UK very highly back home. For us to come here and fight for this country and die, is honourable. But Fiji hasn’t been a former colony for long, only getting independence in 1970. We asked Colonel Tim Collins about his views on Britain’s Empire today. The British Empire hasn’t existed, arguably since 1947 when India was given its independence. I don’t think it’s an imperial present. Again, in some people’s minds. Not even as an adjunct to the US empire as some would call it? I think that’s somebody talking, you know, who needs medication and reads the Guardian a lot. You know, they’re probably self-harming the sort of people that have those thoughts. And I pity them. But many in Northern Ireland viewed the British Army presence there as an imperial occupation. My earliest memories are being dragged out of my bed. And they won’t leave the room and they’re males. But the humiliation now of having to get out of my bed and I’m wet. And when I do get out of my bed and they see that I’ve peed the bed… they’re laughing and you know “ah, pissed the bed there, did you?” In response to the harassment and attacks on Catholics, the IRA, a Republican paramilitary group, vowed to rid Ireland of British imperialism. Loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Defence Association sprang up in response to the IRA. I visited one of their museums in Belfast to get their side of the story. Equipment – these are all replicas by the way. Armalites, Uzis, 303s… Most of the weapons at the start, like the handguns and all, would have come from Scotland. Can you give me examples of what it was like having the army on the streets, because we’ve heard from other communities what it was like, but what was it like for you here? A feeling of safety even though their guns were pointed in our way we didn’t think they were pointed at us. I suppose that if it hadn’t been for the British Army in between, things could have been a lot worse. It would have been a lot worse. So, the British Army’s role here was peacekeeping. They were always neutral. Like I was saying, when I was in training, you have lessons on Ireland. And he said to us “look there’s two different types of terrorist in Ireland. There’s the IRA, and there’s the UVF and UFF, like the Protestants.” And he said “all you need to know, the IRA are the bad guys, that’s who we’re after. And the UVF and UFF, unofficially they’re the good guys and they’re on our side.” Loyalists and the British Army are ideologically aligned with their views on the monarchy, British nationalism, and preventing a united Ireland at all costs. The ethos of the state and our way of life would be gone. As I said before, and to your viewers I’m British – Britishness doesn’t just end in London, so, this British union goes two ways. I actually think we’re more British than Britain Really? Why would you say that? We would stand for the Queen, so we would, we would never have fought against the British army. In fact, many protestant paramilitaries colluded with the British Army to kill IRA members, activists, lawyers and civilians. In the 1970s, 80s… they would tell you that we just went out and murdered Catholics, fair enough, we killed Catholics. All over Loyalist Belfast today, banners fly in support of a British soldier, Soldier F, who killed Catholic civilians on Bloody Sunday. This was one of two massacres of unarmed Republican protesters in the early 1970s by the British Army. Dozens were killed. Fiona’s brother Jim, like many young people his age, joined the IRA after Bloody Sunday, aged 16. He was shot dead by a British soldier a week before his 21st birthday. The soldier that pulled the trigger was around the same age as Jim. Probably listening to the same music. Even though Jim would have been classed as being in the IRA, he was an unarmed civilian that night. He was just a fella with his girlfriend, coming home from the cinema. He didn’t deserve to die simply because of his beliefs. But the army’s targeting of republican communities didn’t happen by chance. it goes all the way back to training. The doctrine of the military… first of all they make everyone else seem like they’re the enemy. Who do you mean, when you say that? It could be anyone. I dare say in the 70s, 80s, when they were in Ireland, basically the soldiers may have seen Irish people worth less than them. If you go to Iraq or Afghanistan there’s certain names that they call Iraqis to more or less dehumanise them, it makes them easier…to kill really. This is true of armies the world over. Soldiers are trained to dehumanise the enemy, in order to make killing easier. Today, the army uses video games to train its soldiers, and the same controllers are used to carry out drone bombings. The difference with the British Army is that they’re in military occupations more than most and have been for 100 years. And their particular ideology is never far from a battle zone. Did you see racism against the people we were supposedly helping – Iraqis, Afghans? As soon as the training goes on, there is an element of dehumanisation going on. They dehumanise the Iraqi people. These goat fuckers. And so… ragheads. They told me that the reason why I went to Iraq is to go and bring peace to the people of Iraq. But then later I found out that I was the terrorist that I was fighting against. In Britain, we’re seeing an emboldened far-right, and nationalist, right wing politicians running the country a shift that many in the military establishment will relish. But for the rank and file like me, Phil, Kieran and Inoke, we reject the army’s racism. Racism. It has always been part of the British Army. Reject the army’s exploitation of the working class. They’re not sending their kids. It’s the working class that go there, the working class that fight, and the working class that die. And reject militarism full stop. This is my army hat – this was given to me as a 16-year-old boy. I reject militarism, I reject war, and it means nothing to me.