The Normandy Landings: Haunted by war's horror

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Indy Lifestyle Online
FOR hundreds of men who fought in the Normandy campaign the war has never ended. Many of them suffer from nightmares and flashbacks, remembering the sights and sounds of battle and the horror of watching friends die, writes Will Bennett.

Some have suffered since the Second World War, unable to keep jobs, their marriages collapsing and their tempers frequently frayed. The problems of others have emerged more recently, usually triggered by personal crisis.

Of the 3,800 former servicemen being helped by the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society, 70 per cent served in the Second World War and the remainder in more recent campaigns.

The condition was once called shell shock, then battle fatigue and now combat stress, but whatever the label it does not mean cowardice. One man, now 69, from Yorkshire, served with the Royal Norfolk Regiment from D-Day to the surrender of Germany and was recommended for the Military Medal. At the end of the war he seemed fine, but years later began to suffer depression, panic attacks and claustrophobia. Almost 50 years on he still gets a tightening in his head which first occurred when a friend in the regiment was killed during the North-west Europe campaign.

A television news report about the Gulf war caused another veteran, who is 72 and living in Cheshire, to break down. He had served as a driver with an Army field ambulance unit in North Africa, Italy and North-west Europe.

Brigadier Tony Dixon, director of the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society, says most of the men are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder of the type experienced by some civilians involved in disasters such as the Zeebrugge ferry sinking.

The society runs a home for 46 veterans and two centres for short- term treatment. It also provides counselling, advice and support.

The society can be contacted on 081 543 6333.

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