Commando ‘knocked out soldier over banter about inability to grow a beard’

Bulford Military Court Centre
Bulford Military Court Centre

A Royal Marine at a security base knocked out a soldier over "banter" at his inability to grow a beard, a court martial has heard.

The commando was allegedly left “apoplectic” after an exchange of jokes between groups of servicemen watching England on television during the European Championship in 2021.

Marine S, who has been granted anonymity due to his security classification, descended into a “red mist”, punching one sergeant with “full force” in the face, the court heard.

The punch broke the sergeant's jaw, damaging his teeth and knocking another out from behind.

The fracas took place at the Ministry of Defence Chicksands, Bedfordshire – home to the Joint Intelligence Training Group (JITG) and the headquarters of the British Army's Intelligence Corps.

Scuffle 'erupted' after banter 'struck the wrong note'

The court heard Marine S and the group he was at the bar with, took objection to “banter” about receding hairlines and their apparent inability to grow beards.

He denies two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, saying he acted in self-defence after being attacked - and even said he had his finger bitten.

Opening the case at Bulford Military Court, Wiltshire, prosecutor Maj James Eveleigh told the court that the incident happened on the evening of the semi-final between England and Denmark.

He said: "On July 7 2021, the complainant and defendant found themselves in a warrant officer and sergeants' mess at the Ministry of Defence Chicksands.

"Both parties were there to watch the Euro semi-final between England and Denmark."

Maj Eveleigh said during the course of the evening there was “banter” between Marine S's unit and another serviceman, RAF Flt Sgt Alan Fenney, which “struck the wrong note” - with “bad blood” being left behind.

Attempts to get an apology were unsuccessful and a scuffle “erupted”, the court heard, with Sgt Steven Martin trying to intervene.

Giving evidence, Sgt Martin said there had been “forwards and backwards banter” that had generally been “taken in good jest”.

However, it ended on a “bad note”, he said.

Sgt Steven Martin arriving to give evidence at Bulford Military Court Centre
Sgt Steven Martin arriving to give evidence at Bulford Military Court Centre

Sgt Martin told the court that another serviceman, Soldier R, who cannot be named for legal reasons, then “speared” Flt Sgt Fenney with a rugby tackle.

Sgt Martin said he then intervened, getting Soldier R in a chokehold.

He continued: "I went over to [the other unit] to apologise for intervening. That, in my view, could have been the end of the entire incident. However, it wasn't."

The court heard Flt Sgt Fenney was “enraged” at having been “attacked from behind” and was escorted out of the mess. Sgt Martin then saw Marine S with “his hands around the throat” of a different colleague.

Flt Sgt Fenney, who also gave evidence, admitted to making jibes about the other group's receding hairlines, not being able to grow beards and pick up girls at the bar after they called him a “skinny f—-r”.

He told the court his banter “fell absolutely flat”, before he returned to sit with his own unit.

As events spiralled, Flt Sgt Fenney said Marine S had been “apoplectic with rage”, shouting at him to “get the f— out of his bar” before things escalated.

The trial continues.