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'Daniel Campbell wakes up drenched in sweat. Every muscle in his body is tense. The dead child, the one he couldn't save, is back. He creeps to the bathroom. The child is waiting for him. Its bloodied face stares at him accusingly from inside the mirror. He splashes cold water on his forehead and returns wearily to bed.
Daniel Campbell was a child soldier in the British Army. "I wanted to see the world and I wanted to help people," he says, remembering the day he stepped, aged 16, into Portsmouth's recruitment centre. And see the world he did: left with severe PTSD after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army abandoned him as if he were a broken toy.
The basic brutality that underpins the work of the British Armed Forces is not something that recruiters tend to dwell on when pitching to kids. So a group of former soldiers, Veterans For Peace UK, have taken it upon themselves to highlight the harsh realities of life and death in, and after, the army.
Action Man: Battlefield Casualties, a series of darkly funny short films produced with artist Darren Cullen, is their attempt to show the shit beneath the shine of polished army propaganda. Featuring PTSD Action Man ("with thousand-yard stare action"), Paralysed Action Man ("legs really don't work") and Dead Action Man ("coffin sold separately"), the films are being released to coincide with Armed Forces Day.
"No matter how bad anyone thinks this film is, the reality is worse," says artist Darren Cullen. "It's not sick to show what actually happens in a war. It's sick to convince people to join that war without telling them what's possibly going to happen. Recruiting 16-year-olds into the army is sick."
Figures released in 2014 revealed that one in four new recruits were too young to vote, smoke, or drink. In Europe, only Britain still stubbornly enlists 16-year-olds. Globally, this places us alongside North Korea and Iran.
"These recruits are typically from poorer backgrounds," says David Gee, Child Soldiers International. "That means they are more likely, in the course of their army career, to suffer a debilitating traumatic stress reaction. Trauma or adversity during childhood markedly increases the risk of PTSD over the course of an army career."...'