Veteran tells of officer's taunts

A Falklands veteran suing the Ministry of Defence for false imprisonment because he claims he was made to stay in the forces against his will was taunted by an officer over the affair just before he risked his life in one of the bloodiest actions of the war, the High Court heard yesterday.

Only days before James Pritchard, a radio operator with the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, was involved in the fierce fight for Mount Longdon, a captain conceded that the soldier should not have been there because he would have left the Army months earlier but for a mistake on a form.

Despite the "hassle" by the captain, who had been dealing with the Army's dispute with Mr Pritchard, and the deaths of at least 15 of his friends, the soldier said he had been "proud" to serve with the regiment during the campaign. However, he feared he would be thrown into jail on trumped-up charges as he said had happened to others who had "rocked the boat".

The case, which has taken six years to come to court, revolves around the complexity of Army regulations and the myriad of forms continually completed by all forces personnel.

Mr Pritchard, 41, now a voluntary Bosnian aid convoy driver, is claiming compensation for the extra time he was forced to remain in the Army because of a mistake on an application form, with aggravated damages because of attempts by officers to cover up the error and attribute "disreputable" motives to his desire to leave. In his statement read out in court, Mr Pritchard said he rejoined the Army in February 1980 after an earlier period of service on the understanding that because of changes in Army regulations he would have to serve only a little over 18 months, even though superiors believed he had signed on for three years.

Christopher Pitchford QC, for Pritchard, said as soon as he rejoined the regiment Mr Pritchard tried to change the terms of his engagement, in line with the conditions on the form he completed when he signed on again, but was not allowed to make the alteration.

The case continues today.