A man hanged himself while on a video call with his former girlfriend after taking a street drug known as ‘Monkey Dust’, an inquest has heard.
John Bentley, 27, took his own life after consuming a ‘huge amount’ of the dangerous synthetic drug at his home in Smallthorne, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire on March 25.
Despite the efforts of the emergency services, Mr Bentley, who had been on a video call with his ex-partner as he hanged himself in his loft, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post-mortem examination found morphine and heroin as well as the synthetic cathinone, known as monkey dust, in his system.
An inquest today heard Mr Bentley, who had suffered with his mental health ever since the death of his father when he was aged just 10, had been on a video call with his ex-partner as he took his own life.
A police officer told the inquest: ‘We received a call from someone who said she had watched him do it. She said he climbed into the loft and hanged himself. She had been on a video call while it had been taking place.
‘She called the ambulance. There was no third party involvement.’
PC Georgina Brudzinska, who spoke to Mr Bentley’s ex-partner following the tragedy, said: ‘She had been in a relationship with him but they had separated one year earlier. She told him it was over.
‘She received a video call from Mr Bentley at 6am and he stated he could not live without her. He said ”I can’t live with you”.
‘He phoned again and put his phone down. He went into the loft. She tried to call his mother but there was no answer so she called 999. She said he was drugged out of his face.’
In a statement, Mr Bentley’s mother Debra said: ‘Three days earlier my daughter had come to visit. She found a picture of John and his dad and numerous suicide notes addressed to friends and family.
‘I called 111 and they gave me the number for the crisis team. He wouldn’t let this happen and said he was OK.
‘I was not aware that he had any intention to take his own life. I would have stopped him and supported him.’
North Staffordshire senior coroner Andrew Barkley ruled Mr Bentley’s cause of death as hanging.
He said: ‘This was an intentional act committed by him.’
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details
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Belgium are seeking their third Group B win in a row to keep the momentum going at Euro 2020 – but Finland are out for a result to join them in the knockout stages
Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils have the maximum six points from their opening two games to book a place in the last-16, and they will finish top of their group with a draw against Finland.
As for the Finns, Markku Kanerva’s men will go through with a victory, or a draw if Russia lose to Denmark in the other group game today.
While Belgium are already through, Martinez has warned Finland that he is unlikely to rest his key players as the Red Devils look to keep their winning run going and build consistency for the knockouts.
Follow all the latest action on our LIVE Euro 2020 match blog!
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THE COURSE OF true love never did run smooth. That is particularly true when your lover weighs half a tonne and is wearing steel shoes. At the National Stud in Newmarket, a town in Suffolk widely regarded as the home of thoroughbred racing, it is breeding season. A mare stands in the shade of a stable. Her hooves have been covered with leather boots, to dampen kicks; her head is held by grooms. Tim Lane, director of the stud, calms her. The horses, brushed till they are as shiny as conkers—“they’ve got to look good,” explains Mr Lane—eye each other warily.
Thoroughbreds are the aristocrats of the horsing world: glamorous, subjected to odd mating rituals and more than a touch inbred. All are descended from three Arabian stallions brought to England in around 1700; animals which, Charles Darwin said, had “the commingled blood of Arabs, Turks and Barbs” in their veins. They make the Habsburgs look genetically diverse.
Always closely related, thoroughbreds are getting even more so. A recent study published in Scientific Reports found “a highly significant increase in inbreeding in the global thoroughbred population during the last five decades”. All but 3% of the 10,000 horses in the study counted Northern Dancer, born in 1961, among their ancestors. Superstar sires “cover”, as horsey types call mating, over 200 mares per year, up from 40 in Northern Dancer’s day.
At first, horse breeders did not consider inbreeding a problem. On the contrary: horses, like maidens, were better when purer. Within a century of the arrival of those three stallions, it was decided that the job of perfecting the horse had been done so well that the stud book was closed to new entrants. Aristocrats policed the parentage of their horses, listing their dams and sires in Weatherbys stud book. In 1826 Burke’s Peerage appeared, allowing aristocrats to do much the same for themselves. Francis Galton, the father of eugenics, recommended that “no time ought to be lost” in instituting a human equivalent to the stud book, to record not class, but fitness and form.
Eugenics has fallen out of fashion. The horsey equivalent has not. Thoroughbreds can earn far more from propagating their race than from running races. At the National Stud, one commands a fee of £25,000 ($35,000) for a cover. Galileo, among the world’s finest stallions, is rumoured to command £600,000 a pop.
Such fees make the very best thoroughbred semen one of the world’s most expensive substances, at around £6m a litre. Precise sums are difficult as it is not sold by the bottle (horses conceived by artificial insemination cannot be registered as thoroughbreds) and quantities naturally vary, but there is no doubt this is a profitable business. The finest stallions can earn a million pounds in a day.
Fashionable sires are therefore good for breeders. But they may be bad for the breed. As genetic mutations accumulate, health and fertility decline. Such problems have been found in species as diverse as dogs, humans and cows, and it is hard to see why horses would be immune to them. “We don’t know yet how much inbreeding is tolerable or whether we’ve reached a tipping point, or when that point might be reached,” says Emmeline Hill of University College Dublin, one of the authors of the recent report. Genetic problems may be accumulating, unseen.
Back at the National Stud the gleaming horses, cover completed, trot back into the sunlight. Mr Lane, like Ms Hill, considers that what matters is not just appearance, but function. A horse that looks wonderful might not race well, or breed well. Teasingly, he reaches for an analogy with another species. “Not all good-looking women can cook, can they?” ■
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Neigh laughing matter”
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Completing a line means carefully heel-toeing from one end to the other while wearing a waist-harness that links to a 3-inch steel ring around the webbing. In a fall, walkers remain attached, but they have to haul themselves back up to balance or shimmy back to an anchor point while dangling upside down.
The sport in the past decade has flourished into a culture of athletes, gear brands and sponsorships.
Over the course of six days earlier this month, the Monterrubios used the help of 18 friends and fellow highliners to navigate their webbing through and across the landscape – hiking lines up from the valley floor, rappelling down from the cliffs above and maneuvering through countless tree branches.
Eventually, they had their anchors: a set of granite boulders at Taft Point and an old, thick tree trunk at the other outcropping.
“It was pretty intense and dangerous. But we made it happen,” Moises Monterrubio said.
It all came together at sunset June 10: The line was set, the brothers were ready and the honour was theirs. Daniel, 23, walked the line first and fell three or four times in the wind but made it across. Then Moises, also falling twice but catching himself on the line above the craggy landscape.
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After Ann Feloy’s 22-year-old son Oliver tragically took his own life on February 14, 2017, she wanted to create a positive legacy to help save others, particularly young men.
It led to her founding Olly’s Future, a suicide-prevention charity that runs courses to help people talk more openly about suicidal feelings.
Here, Ann addresses some of the myths that can prevent families and friends starting important conversations with loved ones they have concerns about.
MYTH: Thoughts of suicide are very rare
This is not true; thoughts of suicide are common. The Samaritans estimates that one in 20 people are thinking of suicide at any one time.
Imagine sitting on a busy bus: statistically, at least one person you can see is thinking of suicide. However, this is not a figure to be frightened of because thoughts, including thoughts of suicide, come and go.
This is part of being human. And thoughts are not actions; far fewer people go on to act on their thoughts, especially if they have the chance for an open, honest and non-judgmental conversation about how they are feeling.
MYTH: If I talk about suicide with someone I’m worried about, I’ll make things worse
If someone you know is struggling to cope, talking about suicide won’t make things worse, as long as you show them you genuinely care.
Concern about saying the right thing is often counterproductive. To paraphrase US civil rights activist and author Maya Angelou: people don’t remember what we said or did, they remember how we made them feel.
It’s far better, therefore, to focus on actively listening to a person, showing and telling them you care and they are not alone. Importantly, if you don’t know what to say or do, simply saying something like: “I don’t know what to say right now. I’m just so glad you’re here and I’m so glad we’re talking now. You’re not alone and I care about you” can make all the difference in the world.
Talking about suicide will not make the situation worse, it can only make things better. If you want to learn more about talking about suicide, join a 90-minute open session, see information box, right.
MYTH: Only people who are depressed think about suicide
It’s a commonly held belief that for a person to consider suicide they must be depressed. This is not always the case. The Mental Health Foundation estimated that 70 per cent of recorded suicides are by people experiencing depression, often undiagnosed.
However, it is quite possible for sudden changes in circumstances or life events to cause a person to think about ending their life, without any symptoms or diagnosis of depression.
What is your view? Have your say in the comment section
Financial loss, shame or bereavement could lead a person to feel suicidal.
Those who lose a loved one to suicide are particularly at risk – they are 65 per cent more likely to think of suicide themselves than if their loved one died by natural causes.
This is a stark reminder to check in with all your friends and loved ones, especially following a loss of any kind, even those who seem to be coping well. Unless you ask them (more than once), you might not know how even your closest friends are really feeling.
MYTH: Children and young teenagers would never think about suicide
While it would be great if this were true, sadly this isn’t the case.
People of all ages, sometimes very young, can think of suicide and end their own lives.
Since 2010, the number of suicides in the under-25s has increased, as have those in the 15-to-19 age bracket.
Bullying, childhood trauma and/or bereavement are often cited as possible triggers. In February, initial findings from the University College London Millennium Cohort Study reported that seven per cent of 19,000 young people who took part had attempted suicide by the age of 17.
Statistically, the age group with the highest suicide rate is men aged 45 to 49, followed by men aged 85 to 89. Issues with alcohol, financial hardship or loneliness are common factors.
However, it’s important to remember that anyone, regardless of age, gender, job title or bank balance, can consider ending their life.
Thoughts are common but the circumstances for each person are always unique.
Therefore, rather than focusing on high-risk groups or feeling saddened by statistics, anyone can learn to spot the common signs, trust their gut feelings and start a conversation with someone (of any age) who may be vulnerable.
If you are a parent or teacher, or you are interested to learn more about suicide in children aged five to 14, you could attend an ASK Workshop (askworkshop.org.uk).
MYTH: If I ask someone if they are thinking of suicide, I will put the idea into their head
This is perhaps the most widely believed – and dangerous – myth of all. The truth is you are extremely unlikely to make someone consider suicide by talking about it, or even by asking if they are thinking of it.
The reason this myth is dangerous is because if you are afraid of putting the idea into a person’s head you may avoid saying the “S word” altogether, perhaps hoping that by avoiding the subject the idea of suicide will jugo away.
If a person is thinking of suicide, their thoughts might well pass. But thoughts are far more likely to pass with support, starting with a direct and caring conversation. If you ask someone if they are thinking of suicide, you may well bring relief to that person as they have likely been struggling silently alone, perhaps putting on a brave face.
Asking directly also gives them permission to talk freely and openly, especially if you are clear that you don’t judge them. Remember, thoughts of suicide are very common.
MYTH: Only doctors or mental health experts can help someone thinking of suicide
It is far more accurate to say that anyone can help someone who is thinking of suicide.
Of course, many clinicians are skilled and experienced at helping someone who is thinking of suicide. However, according to a report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of people who died by suicide did not seek help in the year before they died.
We therefore cannot rely on medical professionals to support people who are thinking of suicide because often people at risk do not get as far as seeking or getting help from them.
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Suicide is a community issue and demands a community response; as friends, colleagues, family members, we can all be a part of this solution by co-creating a supportive network and learning some simple techniques.
Any caring person who is able to listen without judgment can help someone thinking of suicide.
MYTH: People who talk about suicide are only seeking attention. It’s a cry for help
We all seek attention (to be seen, heard, understood), just as we all seek to love and be loved. Again, this is part of being human. If a person needs our attention in order to stay alive, we must give it to them.
We cannot take the risk of dismissing people who talk about ending their life as doing so only to get attention. Their need for help may be so desperate as to appear manipulative, but it’s vital to be compassionate.
If a baby cries for help, we don’t consider them attention seeking. We attend to them, and connect. We find out what they need, we help in any way we can, and get help from others when we reach the limit of what we can do.
If an adult is desperate enough to cry for help, why would we do anything different? Asking for help can be hard enough. If someone is struggling to stay alive, we must give them the attention and the support they need, every time.
If you are thinking about suicide, you are not alone. For help and support call Samaritans on 116123 or Papyrus Hopeline on 0800 068 4141. For more information about Olly’s Future go to ollysfuture.org.uk
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Britain’s largest investor criticises offer from US private equity firm as supermarket chain’s shares up 35%
Britain’s largest investor has criticised the £5.5bn takeover bid for Morrisons by a US private equity firm, saying it was “not adding any genuine value” as shares in the supermarket group rose by more than one-third.
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), the seventh-largest shareholder in Morrisons, raised concerns about the price of the bid from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice as well as the possibility that the suitor could try to sell its shops to generate cash.
Shares in Morrisons surged by 35% on Monday, after the chain rebuffed the offer, potentially sparking a bidding war.
The price move was spurred by news over the weekend that Morrisons, which employs about 120,000 people in the UK, had become a takeover target, making the Bradford-based supermarket group the top FTSE 250 riser on Monday morning, the first opportunity to trade shares after the approach was made public.
Andrew Koch, a senior fund manager for active equities at LGIM, said: “The sector generally looks undervalued, and private equity look to be interested in Morrisons partly because it has a lot of freehold property, which they would ‘sale and leaseback’ to generate cash to pay back to themselves.
“That’s not adding any genuine value, and the company could do that themselves. So I would personally not expect a bid to succeed at that level.”
The potential for property sales and leasebacks has been highlighted by many analysts as a key rationale for the bid. The grocer owns the freehold for 85% of its 497 stores, and prides itself on its 19 manufacturing sites including bakeries, abattoirs, fishing fleets and egg farms.
Similar moves are often used by private equity investors to generate returns, but can be controversial if the money is used to pay dividends to shareholders rather than reinvested in the business.
LGIM owns 2.7% of Morrisons, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The investor has been increasingly vocal on takeovers and other corporate governance issues such as the meal delivery company Deliveroo’s stock market listing.
The bid for Morrisons prompted shares to rise in the rest of the sector, as traders bet that other supermarket groups could become targets of private equity interest. Ocado and Sainsbury’s were the biggest gainers on the FTSE 100 on Monday, with shares rising by 4% and 3.8% respectively. Tesco shares rose 1.7% and Marks & Spencer was up 2.8%.
However, Labour has raised concerns over the prospect of further private equity takeovers of UK businesses, saying firms tend to swoop in and pocket the dividends, while cutting jobs and leaving their acquisitions loaded with debt. Reports suggest the Morrisons board would seek assurances from any potential buyers that its workers, manufacturing operations and pensions scheme would be protected.
Morrisons said on Saturday it had rejected a preliminary bid by CD&R because it “significantly undervalued Morrisons and its future prospects”. CD&R had offered to pay 230p a share in cash. Morrisons’ share price closed at 178.45p on Friday, but rose to 235p on Monday morning, valuing the company at £5.7bn.
The private equity firm has until mid-July to make another offer or walk away, meaning it could table a more lucrative offer to convince Morrisons bosses to recommend that investors sell the business. CD&R counts Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco chief executive, as a senior adviser.
Analysts have speculated that other bidders, including rival private equity firms or the massive retailer Amazon, could put their hat in the ring and spark a bidding war for the UK’s fourth-largest grocer.
Another offer by CD&R appeared likely, said analysts led by Thomas Davies at Berenberg, an investment bank. However, any deal could face regulatory scrutiny from competition authorities over the provision of fuel because of CD&R’s stake in the UK’s biggest forecourt operator, Motor Fuel Group. Asda received similar scrutiny when it was taken over this year by private equity-backed investors.
Berenberg added that the interest could benefit the rest of the supermarket sector, which has struggled on the stock market in the past year despite increased sales during the pandemic.
“We expect the offer to have positive read-across to the rest of the UK grocery space, as the UK grocer’s relatively cheap valuations and cash generation may appear increasingly compelling to the private markets,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients.
Analysts said bidders were partly interested in Morrisons because of its relatively small online presence – it has a delivery partnership with Amazon – which gives it more room to grow rapidly.
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Jon Rahm bounced back from his Covid blow last month in sensational style to win his first major in last night’s thrilling US Open climax.
The big Spaniard superbly saw off Louis Oosthuizen with a brilliant just a few weeks after being sent in to quarantine at the Memorial when he tested positive for coronavirus after three rounds and a six shot lead.
Rahm lost $2m dollars that weekend but his major success was priceless after an incredible final day at Torrey Pines where he slammed in breathtaking back to back birdies on his final two holes to set a clubhouse total Oosthuizen couldn’t match.
Rahm was crowned but there was a raft of stars who wouldn’t have slept last night.
The leaderboard was log jammed for most of a thrilling final day and more than half a dozen players will be riddled with regrets.
Rory McIlroy was in the hunt move of the day before his dream faded early on the back nine.
A superb par save from miles out at the 10th was followed by a three putt bogey on the 11th and it was double trouble at the next – after a bladed bunker shot – to see the 2011 champ fall three shots back.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau’s day went even more spectacularly wrong.
The big hitter got his nose in front by the turn.
But a couple of dodgy drives on the way back would prove costly. He unravelled at the 13th and at one stage his ball ended up in a spectator’s carry out as he imploded over the final few holes.
His big rival Brooks Koepka suffered as well.
There were times he got close enough to threaten, but two dropped shots in his final three holes pulled the rug from under him.
You couldn’t take your eyes off the Rahm rollercoaster all day. The big man opened with back to back birdies but had to hang on when he clattered an out of bounds fence at the ninth only to bag an unlikely birdie when a big number looked likely.
H steadied the ship before draining two monster putts at the end to leave Osthuizen a shot back with four to go.
The South African – who won the Open in 2011 – fought on but carved his drive in to the junk at the 17th and his hopes of a second major went up in smoke.
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Nearby residents and visitors to New York’s Washington Square Park have told how they now avoid the landmark after dark amid fears of violence, a day after another late night rave descended into chaos.
On Friday night a woman was left bloodied and bruised after being trampled on by terrified crowds trying to flee a man armed with a large knife and a taser.
The man with the knife and taser is alleged to be Jason McDermott, 42, sources told DailyMail.com. McDermott has been arrested at least 10 times between 2010 and 2014, the sources said.
Now locals have told how the park changes after dark, from a calm, relaxing atmosphere during the day to chaos when the sun goes down.
As the raves at the park have escalated, there have been claims of prostitution and public sexual acts, historic pot smoking escalated to hard drugs, and claims of people carrying weapons like baseball bats.
DailyMail.com spoke to park visitors Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the woman – who has not been named by officials – was injured.
The nearby residents, afternoon park attendees and business owners who spoke to DailyMail.com have demanded police step up their enforcement of a midnight curfew and stop motorcyclists zooming through the park.
All said they wouldn’t be going to the park tonight, amid fears of further violence.
Across from the northwest section of the park, a full block away from the iconic arches where most revelers congregate at night, two women enjoyed the sunlight outside their ground floor window.
Christa Shaub, who has lived in the area for 15 years, and Amy Heinemams, who has lived in there for six years, said the partying in the park is nothing new especially during the summer months, but ‘it’s exaggerated post-pandemic.’
‘This is an open park, but you need to have respect for people,’ Shaub said. ‘There needs to be regulations.’
While they think the park is safe during the day, Heinemams said, ‘I won’t walk through the park at night.’
In a little outcove under the cover of trees and surrounded by shrubbery just south of the arches, a group of about a dozen old timers jam out with an acoustic guitar and dance to live Bob Mellencamp songs.
The guitarist and one of the singers – who said his name was Richie – said he’s been coming to this spot for about eight years and said others in the group have been doing this for decades.
They all live in the apartments across the street. They knew the homeless who roamed the park by name and essentially adopted a homeless person to make they ate and were OK.
But Richie said they make a point to be out of the park no later than 5pm.
‘We’re not going to deal with what’s going on night and don’t want any part of it,’ Richie said.
Last week the park’s night scene exploded with multiple assaults and slashings. Police held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, which pitted residents against protesting revelers. Hours later, the park was packed again, although tamer than the weekend.
Wednesday and Thursday nights, the equilibrium seemed to inch closer to a pre-pandemic norm, then Friday night’s chaos pressed the reset button.
Karen Bartolo, who’s now in her late 50s, has a deep reverence for the park’s rich history and said she’s been performing music in Washington Square Park since she was 15. Every weekend she was here.
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he family and friends of the three men killed in a terror attack in Reading will take part in a memorial service to commemorate one year since their deaths on Sunday.
History teacher James Furlong, 36, scientist Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, who worked for a pharmaceutical company, were murdered in Forbury Gardens on June 20 last year.
The three friends had been enjoying a summer evening together as lockdown restrictions eased when they were attacked by 26-year-old failed Libyan asylum seeker Khairi Saadallah
Three other people – Stephen Young, 51, Patrick Edwards, 29, and Nishit Nisudan, 34 – were also injured before Saadallah threw away the eight-inch knife and ran off, pursued by an off-duty police officer.
Saadallah was handed a whole-life sentence in January after he pleaded guilty to three murders and three attempted murders.
A year on, the victims’ loved ones, members of the emergency services who responded on the day and representatives from different elements of Reading’s community are invited to a memorial service.
The service will be led by Cllr David Stevens, Mayor of Reading, and will include tributes to the victims and readings, followed by the laying of floral tributes at the Forbury Bandstand.
The public can follow the service via livestream on Reading Council’s Facebook page.
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GARY SULLIVAN is the chairman of Wilson James, a security and logistics company. But when covid-19 ravaged Britain last year he shed his suit, donned a uniform and helped build a hospital at a convention centre in east London. For in addition to his day job, Mr Sullivan is also the commanding officer of the British Army’s Engineer and Logistic Staff Corps, a group of senior executives who volunteer their time to the armed forces. His straddling of civilian and military worlds might be a model for the future.
Last month the government published an independent review of military reservists conducted by Mark Lancaster, a Conservative peer and former minister for the armed forces. His recommendations, he says, would constitute the “biggest shake-up of reserves since 1914”.
Britain’s Army Reserve has existed in one form or another for over a century. As the Territorial Army, the name used until 2014, its reputation was that of enthusiastic amateurs playing soldiers at the weekends. Reserves were warm bodies used to bulk out an army that had shrunk dramatically after the cold war, training sporadically but to be used only in extremis. In recent years the reserve developed a more “professional ethos”, says Patrick Bury of the University of Bath, shedding its old (and unfair) reputation as a “drinking club”. Reserves made up 15% of the deployed force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, the idea is that they should play a larger and more routine role in military activity. One spur for change has been the pandemic, during which the armed forces have driven oxygen tankers, built hospitals and delivered vaccines, most recently to combat local outbreaks in the north of England. That response was possible only because reservists brought skills from the civilian world. Mr Sullivan’s staff corps also responded to Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean in 2017, the collapse of a dam at Toddbrook reservoir in the Peak District in 2019 and last summer’s explosion in Beirut.
Mobilising civilian expertise is nothing new. The staff corps was formed in 1865, to ensure privately owned railways would serve the state in wartime. Military doctors have long worked in the National Health Service to keep their skills sharp. But the renewed emphasis on reservists also follows from a broader shift in the nature of warfare: away from manpower and towards technology and information. During the cold war the cutting edge of technology lay in defence laboratories. Now many advanced military capabilities—cyber-security, space, artificial intelligence and robotics—lie largely in the private sector.
Meanwhile a growing emphasis on propaganda and battles of narrative lends itself to skills found in creative industries. “If you want a good television cameraperson for countering Russian media operations, you’re better off recruiting somebody from the BBC to be a reservist than trying to bring them into the army and then expecting them to maintain their skills level,” says Paul O’Neill, a former head of “people strategy” at the defence ministry and now at the Royal United Services Institute, a think-tank.
That is precisely what 77 Brigade has done. The army’s specialist unit for information operations—in large part, psychological warfare—it has more reservists than regulars. They include journalists, psychologists and executives at social-media firms. Many have the opportunity to use skills such as hacking in a way that would otherwise be illegal.
Attracting such talent will require greater flexibility than is usual in armed forces. Already cyber reserves, who contribute to the new offensive National Cyber Force, need not satisfy the same age and fitness standards that bind other reservists. Mr Sullivan’s terms of service allow him to keep a beard. Lord Lancaster’s own reserve career involves working two days a week as a brigadier at Britain’s Strategic Command, which co-ordinates cyber and special forces, among other cross-service capabilities. Such part-time involvement currently requires special permission, but the armed-forces bill introduced in May would put it on a regular footing. “Being a reservist fits with the gig economy,” notes Mr Sullivan. “More and more people now have portfolio careers.”
Also being considered is allowing experienced civilians to enter at higher ranks, rather than working their way up. The rank system itself might need to adapt, too. Mr O’Neill gives the example of a hypothetical barrister who wants to “run around Salisbury Plain as an infantry soldier”. He or she might be recruited as a junior officer, vaulted to lieutenant-colonel when the army needs legal expertise and dropped back when the need has passed.
That still leaves bigger questions about the reserves’ raison d’être. Regular forces are now very lean by historical standards, and would need augmenting in time of major war. But using reserves for this purpose would be tricky. Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, another think-tank, who once commanded a reserve-heavy brigade in Bosnia, points out that whereas the army reserve is a microcosm of the regular force—a little of everything—the navy and air-force equivalents focus on niche capabilities. They could not be called up as complete squadrons like America’s Air National Guard.
Raw numbers are also an issue, however. In March, as part of a radical defence review, the government said the regular army would shrink to 72,500 soldiers, its smallest in centuries. Lord Lancaster’s review envisions not just reservists who are more actively engaged, but alongside them a “largely dormant” pool of ex-regulars, who could provide “surge capacity” in a crisis. Yet the government has given no sign that reserves will grow. Patriotic hackers and bored lawyers will not be enough to make up the numbers. ■
This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Not your dad’s army”
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