'If the Army had cared, my daughter would still be alive'

Traumatised and bullied, Chanice Ward was discharged after trying to kill herself. Terri Judd tells her tragic story

Lance-Corporal Chanice Ward's coffin was draped with a Union Flag. Three weeks ago, the 29-year-old sat alone at home and penned a four-page letter in her usual tidy handwriting before swallowing a fatal dose of pills. After years of nightmares caused by the horrors she saw on duty in Bosnia, and the humiliation of being unceremoniously dumped from the Army when depression took hold, the former Royal Army Medical Corps soldier took her own life.

Miss Ward was a teenager when she first witnessed the atrocities of the Balkans conflict: the torture victims, the bomb-blast casualties and the injured children. A bright, self-possessed and well-spoken young woman, her exemplary service had included a commendation for saving a soldier who suffered spinal injuries during an exercise, and a recommendation to be considered for an officer's commission.

But two back-to-back tours of duty, first in Kosovo and then in Bosnia, took their toll. Overworked, bullied and shocked by the cruelty she witnessed, she became depressed and made two attempts on her life.

After the first, she was sent back to work. After the second, she spent months in psychiatric care before being told she had been discharged – not on medical grounds but because her "services were no longer required". To a woman who had dreamed of joining the Army from the age of 16, it was no better than a dishonourable discharge: the ultimate humiliation from which she would never recover.

Yesterday, Miss Ward's father Ivor, 57, a former sergeant with the Royal Engineers, said: "I was in the Army for 22 years but I hate the Army now because of the way it treated my daughter. If she had got the help she needed, she would be alive today. She probably would have stayed in the Army, she loved it that much."

Miss Ward's sister Emma, 26, added: "I don't think she could ever get her head around how she was discharged. She gave 110 per cent to the Army and they washed their hands of her and made her out to be a failure."

Before her death, Miss Ward launched a claim for a war pension on the grounds that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She hoped to have her discharge retrospectively changed to a medical one – recognising the mental wounds she developed during her service. Her father intends to continue pursuing that claim, convinced it is the only way of finally restoring his daughter's dignity.

Miss Ward's death comes at a time when a mounting number of current and former service personnel have backed The Independent's campaign for better mental health treatment for veterans.

On the back of the order of service at Miss Ward's funeral last Wednesday was a picture of her as an 18-year-old, resplendent in her No.2 dress uniform, sitting bolt upright, a gloved hand holding her rifle. The day she passed out as a Private in the RAMC was her proudest moment, her father explained.

An athletic, adventurous youngster and a perfectionist in everything she did, the Army appeared to suit Miss Ward perfectly. But a blissfully happy time in Germany was followed swiftly by tours in Kosovo and Bosnia. "She talked about picking up body pieces but she didn't say much more," Mr Ward said. Miss Ward's former boyfriend, Jack Baldwin, added: "What she hated was seeing the torture victims. The whole scenario was upsetting. I don't think she should have been in that environment, being so young and inexperienced. It traumatised her and she didn't want to put that on other people. She only gave us the tip of the iceberg."

Her troubles were compounded, her family said, by bullying and a cervical cancer scare. In February 2001, she made her first suicide attempt. "She was told to take some time off and get on with life," said her sister, adding that Chanice was still fragile when she was sent on exercise to Canada in 2002.

She repeatedly called home in tears, saying she was being bullied by a sergeant but did not want to complain because it would "look weak and make things worse". On 9 October 2002, she was found in her sleeping bag, having taken another overdose and slashed her wrists. The sergeant denied bullying, insisting he was "firm but fair".

L/Cpl Ward was sent home to the Duke of Kent's Psychiatric Hospital North Yorkshire, where she was told she was to be discharged from the hospital and the Army. Her sister recalled: "She phoned me. She sat in the car sobbing because she did not know what to do, she didn't know where to go. That was it, that was the end of her Army life."

After struggling for years, Miss Ward eventually secured a job as a PA at Norwich Union, where colleagues who packed her funeral said she was fun and popular. But depression and nightmares continued to plague her. On 2 April, she had dinner at a friend's house and left, in an apparently good mood, shortly after 9pm. The next day she was found dead on the floor.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the defence ministry said: "We are very saddened to hear about the death of Chanice Ward and would like to extend our sympathies. We have made great progress both in the treatment of mental health problems and in reducing the stigma associated with seeking help. Treatment for mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress, is also available for veterans through six community-based mental health pilot schemes the MoD has created."

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little