An Army major who called for a ban on “milling”, the selection test for the Paras in which recruits punch each other in the head, says that he spoke out because “it was the right thing to do”.Major
An Army major who called for a ban on “milling”, the selection test for the Paras in which recruits punch each other in the head, says that he spoke out because “it was the right thing to do”.
Major Andrew Fox, 40, who is due to leave the Parachute Regiment, drew online abuse after suggesting that the practice be halted on safety grounds.
Last year Major Fox became the most senior officer to talk about the effect of war on his mental health when he said post-traumatic stress disorder after three tours of Afghanistan left him a “bristling ball of hate and rage”. He later gave a number of interviews about mental health in the military.
Milling involves two soldiers of similar weight repeatedly punching each other in the face and head for a minute. They wear gloves, gumshields and headguards but are not supposed to block or avoid punches. It has been described as “a test of courage, determination and raw fighting spirit”. In 2018 a photograph showed the bloodied face and T-shirt of Lord Frederick Wellesley, 26, a descendant of the Duke of Wellington and a lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, after a milling bout.
Major Fox, who has commanded the regiment’s 3rd Battalion, was abused online after responding to a video of a particularly brutal bout posted on Twitter by the 2nd Infantry Training Battalion. The clip was accompanied by the message: “I think we’re getting #ArmyConfidence spot on. This is what controlled aggression looks like.”
The Mail on Sunday reported that Major Fox, who took part in milling when he was trying to join the Paras, replied in a since-deleted tweet: “Needlessly exposing recruits to head trauma . . . Time to leave this in the 1940s where it belongs.” After online criticism he replied: “To all the screenshot commentators and anonymous tweeters, I have only one message: I make absolutely no apology whatsoever. I’m happy to debate like an adult all day long. But childish, anonymous abuse? Not standing for it.” The MoD said: “We expect serving personnel to use good judgment and respect online.”