The soldier who took his own life while on leave from Afghanistan

 

Just two years after his friend William Aldridge, 18, was fatally wounded in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, becoming the youngest British soldier to die there, Rifleman Allan Arnold took his own life. The 20-year-old was on leave and staying with his sister Abigail, 23, in Cirencester, when he was found dead.

She recalls the last thing he ever said to her: “‘Don’t lock the door as I will be coming straight back, I’ll see you in a bit’. Allan was walking someone home who had had too much to drink and he knew how much I hated leaving my front door unlocked when I was going to bed.”

But he never came back and was later found hanging from a tree on the edge of Cirencester.

“At first I didn’t really want to believe it. I couldn’t believe that my brother had taken his own life.”

Abigail describes the brother she grew up with. “He was truly amazing, he had gone through so much and struggled so hard as a child with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, but throughout everything Allan never gave up. When he had a goal he always achieved it no matter what. He was kind and honest and full of laughter, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He loved all his family and friends and would have done anything for us. He was fantastic - truly amazing, very free spirited, and anything was possible in Allan’s eyes.”

Before he went to Afghanistan in 2009, her brother was “full of life, really hyperactive and always having a good time, his motto was work hard play harder. When he was home the house was always full of laughter and banter and loud music it was always fun.”

But Allan returned from Afghanistan “a broken man, a man who had traumatic flashbacks that on one occasion had resulted in hospitalisation, and he barely slept for the fear of ‘going back there’.”

Her brother started drinking heavily and “barely talked about his tour, only when he was drunk and of a certain state of mind. Even then he spoke more of his guilt about surviving and being uninjured than of what actually happened. He’d said a couple of times that it should have been him who had died not his mates. It was hard hearing this, and equally as hard seeing him cry over a hallucination of his mate William Aldridge - whom Allan said was standing in our family kitchen smiling and looking at him.”

Abigail recalls the guilt her brother felt. “I think Allan blamed himself even though it wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, he felt guilty for being alive.”

Whilst not blaming anyone for her brother’s death, she says more could have been done to prevent it. “He obviously wasn’t in a good place and I believe that the Army/MOD failed in its duty of care to acknowledge Allan’s pain and suffering.”

His sister adds: “In the weeks before his death Allan had spoken out to a physiotherapist about his mental health saying he didn’t feel ready to go back out on tour and that he was struggling...yet nothing came of this conversation.”

The sense of loss she feels is indescribable. “I don’t think I can put into words how much I miss Alan at all, there’ll be a song on the radio that will remind me of him or somebody will walk past whose wore the same deodorant or aftershave as him and you get that gut wrenching feeling in your stomach like you want to be sick, because you are never going to see him again.”

Determined that her brother’s death not be in vain, she has vowed to “do all that I can to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder. I will not rest until the opinion of PTSD being a weakness is changed and until there is a change in the system where all individuals who want and need help are actually given it. Counselling needs to be more readily available, the stigma of PTSD being a weakness needs to change its not a weakness at all it never has been a weakness. And I think that more awareness needs to be raised about the stresses and strains that our troops go through with any tour.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss