Per Ardua Pro Patria

ISBN 1-873203-50-0
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by Dennis Wiltshire
The traumatic experiences of an RAF Bomber Command airman  falsely accused of LMF in WW2.

This is a very worthwhile personal account exposing the unsympathetic treatment of Royal Air Force personnel suffering with psychological disorders during the Second World War.

It is probably true to say that all the airmen who survived flying with RAF Bomber Command suffered some degree of psychological damage as a result of their wartime experiences. Every time they took off on an operation they faced the prospect of an imminent violent death and knew that their chances of making it back to base again in one piece were only about 50-50.

It soon became apparent to the top brass  at the air Ministry at an alarmingly  large number of RAF aircrew were exhibiting signs of battle fatigue. However, in the interests of discipline and morale it was necessary that all military personnel "kept their act together" in order not to undermine the confidence of their colleagues. False bravado was the order of the day and any exhibition of fear or anxiety was frowned upon.

Those who cracked under pressure were not treated sympathetically. Whereas nowadays post-traumatic stress  disorder (PTSD) is a recognised condition, during World War II those who exhibited its symptoms were dismissed derisively as suffering from "lack of moral fibre" or LMF for short. This, of course, was a thinly veiled euphemism for cowardice.

Given the stigma attached to this condition it is extremely brave of Dennis to come forward to tell his story and to reveal that following a mid-air incident that left him in a catatonic state he found himself accused of LMF and of faking his condition in order to get out of flying duties. When he failed to recover he was summarily packed off to an asylum for the mentally ill, where he found himself surrounded by other inmates who had been similarly invalided out of the Armed Forces (many of whom, he recalls, were indeed outrageous malingerers).

Dennis was eventually given an honourable discharge by the RAF when it was established that his complaint was genuine, but his harrowing description of what he went through in order to convince them makes for uncomfortable reading.

Dennis should be congratulated for tackling this taboo subject and lifting the lid on the uncomfortable fact that even the 50% of bomber command aircrew who survived physically were left with psychological scars as a result of the extreme levels of stress they experienced while on flying duties.