Series which charts the lives of four new British Army recruits begins with the first five weeks of their six-month basic training course in Catterick.
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This programme contains strong language.
It's a dangerous time to be a soldier in the British Army...
..as almost 380 troops have been killed in Afghanistan
and over 1,700 seriously injured.
-Show me your war face!
Stop being weak!
And yet thousands of young men from all across the UK want to join the army
and get their chance to fight for their country.
When you're going, you will go.
This series tells the story of four young men
on their journey from civvies to soldiers...
It's got 30 bastard-odd pence in!
..beginning on their very first day as new recruits...
Turn! You got it wrong!
..through to frontline combat in Helmand.
Catterick, North Yorkshire,
one of the biggest army bases in the world.
Pick your kit up and follow me.
For the next 26 weeks, this will be home to 28 recruits...
..all beginning their life in the British Army.
There are no formal qualifications required to join the infantry.
The recruits just need to be between the ages of 17 to 32,
have minimal reading and writing skills
and be prepared to lay their life on the line for Queen and country.
I tried college, it wasn't for me.
There was too many kids, who weren't old enough. It just wasn't me.
If anybody says you're not scared of going to a warzone...
WOMAN: Who's next, please?
..they're not human, obviously. But it's...
After you're trained, I think it mentally and physically prepares you for it.
You don't need your ties now.
If you've got a shirt on, take it off now.
Next two, let's go. Chuck it back.
-Ashley Cavanagh left school at 16.
-Send him in as soon as he's ready.
He's spent the past two years stacking shelves in Asda.
-What's your name?
Right. You will now be known as Rifleman Cavanagh.
You officially commence training today. Today is your official start day in the army.
-From today, you will serve a minimum of four years.
'It's just nerves at the moment, I think.'
You're with strange people that you've never met in your life
and you're going to be spending a lot of time with them.
And you're scared to smile!
Almost 380 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan
and nearly 300 of them were trained right here at Catterick.
If these new recruits pass out and complete their training,
some could be deployed to the frontline within three months.
In you go, guys. Grab yourselves a seat.
First of all, welcome. You've made a big decision by coming here
and deciding to become soldiers in the British Army.
Be proud of what you're doing
and be proud of the regiment you're joining.
It's not going to be easy.
The main thing, though, guys, is mental robustness.
Almost everything that you do here is all up here.
Almost certainly, all of you at some point will deploy to Afghanistan.
Some of you, within a few months of leaving this place,
the things that you are taught here could potentially save your lives
as well as your fellow soldiers' lives.
That's why you need to pay attention.
If you're tired and you're not really listening,
make sure you buck up your ideas and listen in.
Only those that are good enough will leave this place as a trained soldier.
If you're not good enough, I will make you leave.
Plain and simple.
If you want to stand up now...
-THEY RECITE OWN NAMES
-..swear by Almighty God...
-THEY REPEAT VERBATIM
..that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance
to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,
her heirs and successors
and that I will
as in duty bound
honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty
against all enemies
and will observe and obey all orders
of Her Majesty
and of the generals and officers
set over me.
You are officially soldiers.
Left, right! Left, right! Left, right!
The recruits won't be allowed to leave the base
or see their families for the next five weeks.
Once training begins, they'll have limited access to their phones.
As Ashley prepares to spend a daunting first night in the army, he's calling his dad.
We've just settled in now
and it's going to start getting harder from tomorrow.
All right, then, Dad. Love you, too.
See you soon. Bye.
I'm quite an emotional person with my family and stuff.
Even away from my family for, like, a few days or months, or how long it is,
it's still emotional to speak to them.
I'm happy when I get to speak to them, definitely.
It's just the first five weeks are going to be hard.
Your fitness isn't as good as what it's going to be,
with all the training and stuff, and, erm,...
Yeah, it's just weird!
Especially when they say "I love you, too",
you know, you just want to go home, but...
It'll be all worth it in the end, definitely.
Ashley has left behind his parents and younger brother in Leeds.
For his dad, having a son in the army
is taking some getting used to.
This is Ashley's room.
It's quite neat and tidy because he's not here!
He's quite a good dancer. He'll probably be a bit embarrassed about this!
He won that for...
It was to do with some charity to do with Asda. He were chuffed to bits.
This is one that he videoed himself.
MUSIC: "Beat Again" By JLS
He weren't in the house and he videoed it and said, "Dad, look what I've got!"
I took him to the train station and I thought,
"Crikey, I'm not going to start bubbling in front of everybody!"
But... You know, I literally did, and I...
I waved him off on the train thinking,
"Crikey, he really is going now!"
I was stood there with a handkerchief! I had to suddenly compose myself!
I'll be honest with you, at first, I tried to talk him out of it because, er,
I guess the Afghanistan situation and, you know...
It's the totally unknown. And you're not just fighting,
you've got all these IEDs and things like that.
That's what frightens me.
ALARM CLOCK BEEPS
Before the reality of war,
the recruits have to face another battle...
A daily wake-up time of 5am.
They'll need to get to grips with the basics...
Do not get the blade and go side to side.
-The sideboards are not down here, they are in the middle.
-ALL: Yes, Corporal.
..learn the highest standards of hygiene...
Make sure they're scrubbed inside. Get that toilet bowl clean every morning.
What are you doing? Get out. Keep your hat on.
..start conducting themselves in a military fashion...
Get out and march in properly.
..and learn about personal presentation - army style.
Jackets - the rear one overlapping the one in front of it.
Three-finger spacing in between each crease.
One main crease on each towel.
For your week-five inspection by the OC,
your locker has to look exactly like that.
And when I say "exactly", I mean the finest detail.
You may think to yourselves, "That seems a bit bullshitty."
However, it's so you learn, as a soldier, at the basics
to get things correct to a specific detail. OK?
-Everyone happy with that?
-ALL: Yes, Corporal.
How the hell can you get one straight fold?
A long way from guns and grenades,
the first piece of hardware the lads need to master
is the iron.
Get your steam coming out.
Start on one part of the top, ensuring that you keep that line.
Use your hand to keep it flush all the way down.
Iron on the inside, right the way up to the middle
and then follow it down all the way, like so.
I'm going to be here all bloody night!
Ashley's roommate, 19-year-old Lee Howard, left school with no qualifications.
Before joining the army, he was training to be a hairdresser.
We're all getting on quite well, taking the mick and everyone takes a laugh.
We sort of help each other out.
-You're leaving everything behind.
Everything. Everything you know.
All your friends, family, everything.
I haven't even spoke to them, really, today.
I wanted to get into army life straight away.
You're not going to speak to them when you're in flipping Afghan, are you?
Lee has left his hometown of Eastbourne,
where he lives with his mum.
This is Lee's bedroom.
He decided to pack the day before he left,
so it was just a mad panic.
And he's left his pink socks and pants behind! Look!
He got this for Christmas and the dog chewed it up a bit. He doesn't know about that.
-He got that for Christmas? Not this Christmas?
It was Saturday.
He did a load of shopping and did his packing, so that's what kept him occupied.
And then on the Sunday morning, he was just crying the whole time.
And at the station.
Lee isn't Donna's only son who's in the army.
Her eldest, Chris, has already done a tour of Afghanistan.
Chris didn't tell me anything.
In fact, he rung me on the Tuesday night
and said it was really quiet over there and not to worry,
because I was constantly worried all the time,
and Thursday morning, he got blown up.
Two people from the army showed me their warrants
and they said, "Are you the mother of Christopher Howard?" That was it, I just fell to pieces.
They said he'd been very seriously injured.
And, erm, I was like, "Are you sure he's not dead?"
I was like, you know, desperate.
I was thinking, "Perhaps they're not going to tell me he's dead."
They said, "No, but he's very, very seriously injured.
"He's lost a hand and a leg."
Chris is currently recovering in an army rehab facility.
Donna's concerned the same might happen to Lee.
You get married and your husband has an affair,
it doesn't mean the next one will. D'you know what I mean?
Or if you have a child with Downs Syndrome, doesn't mean the next baby's going to be.
You can't live like that because you just won't move on.
Lee's 19, he's an adult.
I probably could've talked him out of it,
but who I am to talk him out of something he wants to do?
I haven't got the right to do that.
Anyone can get hurt. It's the name of the job, isn't it?
You sign up and you know... You even get told in your selection,
they tell you, "This is what can happen."
They show you pictures, gory pictures, and things like that, so it's no surprise, is it?
He's had friends die, he's had friends hurt.
I've met loads of them that are injured.
Nothing's putting me off. No way.
I'm definitely sticking out the six months.
No way I'm going home!
There's inspections in half an hour.
Got to get it all prim and proper.
Before the recruits can start to look like real soldiers and receive their regimental berets,
they'll have to pass an official locker inspection in four weeks' time.
Stop moving, Howard.
Right, fellas. Boots - sort them out so they're stood to attention. Heels together.
Is your locker some kind of refrigerator, is it?
-I don't know, Sergeant.
-I'm asking you what it is!
-Piece of paper, Sergeant.
But as the practice inspections begin, there's room for improvement.
-You've got empty bottles in the bottom of your locker!
-That's got change -
-Get it out!
It's got 30 bastard-odd pence in!
Get rid of it now.
-Why isn't your kit in there?
It's too much like hard work to get it bastard ironed the night before!
Not good enough, fellas. Not good enough at all.
Former shelf-stacker Ashley is beginning to feel the strain.
Everything was perfect in my locker this morning, erm,
and they still ripped it out.
That was perfect, in a square block like that, as that is now,
all the same size, kind of nearly A4,
exactly nearly A4... Well, they are A4, yeah.
So he'll come tomorrow and he'll pull them out again.
They're just trying to break us down.
Until week five, they're just going to treat us like shit.
Enter the pool!
The most important attribute a soldier needs is his fitness.
Keep it going, gentlemen!
And even though all the recruits needs to be fit before they can even join,
to be ready for combat in Afghanistan
they'll need to be as fit as professional athletes.
There's a long way to go.
I didn't say get out the pool, did I?
Ten press-ups, gentlemen! Go!
Some of them are a bit scared. But they'll get used to it.
It's the army.
LEE: I've never had anything like this.
It was just knackering. Legs cramping up and everything. They just beasted us, pretty much.
That's probably the first time I've thought, "Sh... What am I doing?"
But it's not just fitness they need to master.
It's teamwork and discipline, also known as drill.
Stand up straight, fellas. Just come to attention now.
What we're going to go through is your first drill lesson to get you to work as a team.
That's how little girls run, don't they?
Drive it into the ground! Drive it in so you can hear the noise from your boot.
Right or wrong,
-stand perfectly still after the movement, yes?
-ALL: Yes, Sergeant.
Don't be embarrassed about screaming. I love it.
-Stand at ease!
Come on, gentlemen, stop the disco dancing.
You're still moving when I'm telling you to stand still.
There's no hiding from me, lads, I can see you.
-One, step. Two, step. Three, step. Out!
Lee, left and right, having difficulties, are we?
-One, step. Two, step. Three, stop. Out!
You got it wrong!
Left, right, left, right.
Stop looking at the ground! It is not going to move!
Easy, fellas. We'll practice and practise until we get it right.
It's head-banging. I've got a headache.
And it really hurts the soles of your feet. It kills, honestly.
That's why everybody's moving, like that. But you can't move, you get told off.
It's pretty hard!
Don't let me catch you on your phones after nine o'clock.
There's stuff to fucking be done. It needs to get cracked.
-Are you happy with that, lads?
-ALL: Yes, Corporal!
As the second week draws to an end,
homesickness is starting to kick in.
You do sit down and think that you are missing home.
And it's... It's a reality check, definitely.
When you're at home, you get up whatever time you want if you're not working.
You have days off. You finish at four, five o'clock. You go home, see your friends.
It's totally different.
It's true, the needs of the army comes before the needs of your life.
He looks so different. Look at him there.
He was at primary school.
These are primary school, as well. That was his classmates.
Ashley's mum is hoping the army's going to change him.
It sounds awful to say, but I think Ashley will change for the better.
For the better, definitely. Because I think, you know...
My dad was a military man
and we were brought up quite... really strict.
Ashley wasn't. We've sort of been...
I thought,"I don't want to be as strict with Ashley as my parents were with me."
So we've sort of maybe been a bit too soft.
He can be a little bit selfish.
We've all got us bad traits, but I think it'll make him grow up
and make him realise how hard it is,
especially for you, for me, you know,
and an idea of what life's about.
I think he's maybe had it easy for the last few years.
Ashley's roommate, Darren Meads,
is also hoping the army's going to change his life for the better.
There's no jobs on Civvy Street at all.
I've been out of work for nearly three years.
I've just been working with the TA and then waiting to come and join the regulars.
I wasn't really doing anything. Just being a bum, really.
It's a weird country at the minute.
Bring it round.
When you've done your laces, tuck them in the back of there,
and then with your sock, pull it over the top so it hides your laces, so they don't fucking fall out.
Pull that over the top.
Unlike the majority of recruits at Catterick,
Darren Meads has already done a tour of duty in Afghanistan
as a part-time soldier with the Territorial Army.
He now wants to make a career as a professional soldier.
That's him. He weren't very old. I think he were about,
er, I'd say a week old.
That's a school picture.
But that's him when he's being given his medal.
I like that picture. I'm very proud of that picture.
That's my son. That's my soldier son.
Darren's mum and his stepdad know more than most the difficulties you face
when your son's doing a tour of duty.
Nobody wants their sons to go to war.
There's always going to be wars, and soldiers to fight the wars,
but you don't want it to be yours. Erm...
So... I can't explain it.
I can feel a lump in my throat as I'm even thinking about it.
The worst part about it, every time they said,
"A British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. The family have been informed,"
I breathed a sigh of relief, and then felt guilty
because somebody else's child had been killed or maimed or hurt.
I stopped breathing, I think, from the minute he went,
and I think I started breathing again when he came back and he was OK.
Although Darren was a reservist in the TA,
he still got a taste of combat when the war came to him.
This is from Afghan.
It's when we hit Sky News!
Er, "A British soldier at the scene of the explosion in Kabul."
I think we had two days left of tour
and that was when the suicide car bomber hit our camp.
There was 94 wounded. Guys lost limbs.
Out of the nine people that died, I think there was three soldiers.
Emotional day, that was. Big time.
A lot of innocent people got killed, Afghan people got killed
and injured, and things like that.
That was probably the worst day of my life.
And the last one, Milligan.
Up until week 12 of training, the recruits have the right
to discharge themselves and leave the army.
-Send him in, please.
However, once those 12 weeks have passed,
they are then committed by military law to serve Queen and country
for a minimum of four years.
So the recruits have to be sure the army is for them.
"Sir, I am 30124880, Private Cresswell,
"and I wish to drop out of my army training because I feel like I am not ready
"as I am not old enough, and this could affect others."
Three weeks into basic training, and as the course starts to get more intense,
more recruits are wanting to quit.
If you leave, what are you going to do?
If it was me and I had two kids, I wouldn't want to sign on the dole at 40-fucking-pound a week.
That's what I came in here for, to have a good career for myself.
You haven't given it a fucking chance. You struggle. So what?
You double your efforts and get it right. You stick at it and you pass.
You don't just give up...
..and go in a strop because you don't pick things up straight away.
You show a bit of fucking grit. You're a fucking Jock.
'For some of them, it's just like last-chance saloon because of the way the country is.'
A lot of them won't have worked before and things like that.
So it is a shock. They're up at half five every morning.
They're not getting to their beds till half past 11.
-Left, quick, march.
-BOY: Left, right, left.
For those who have decided that the army isn't for them,
they're stripped of their uniform and ordered to return their army-issue equipment.
For the recruits remaining,
there's still another 21 weeks to go.
They now need to learn how to carry their own kit.
It's quite heavy once you've got your two full water bottles in...
-And your weapon.
-And your weapon, yes.
It does get heavy, doesn't it, after a while?
Especially if you're tiny, like me.
When they deploy to Afghanistan, they could be fighting in conditions of over 50 degrees
and carrying kit and body armour weighing over 100 pounds.
For Ashley Cavanagh, who's worried he's too small to be a soldier,
he's come up with a new way to help cope with his heavy kit -
his mum's sanitary towels.
I'm using them today, I'm telling you.
He's only got little shoulders, bless him.
It's worth doing.
It's worth doing, especially if your shoulders...
Take your watch off. Take your belt off, as well.
Get your water bottle.
BELL RINGS It's such a rush.
Get in there! For fuck's sake!
-ALL: Quick march!
Stay together, gentlemen! Stay with me!
Stop making girly noises!
Why the fuck have you got a jumper on and a vest?
Get your kit on! Get it on! Get a move on!
All of your kit! You, all of your kit!
Hurry up! Don't piss me about, gentlemen!
Get on your belt buckles, not crawl! Let's go!
Switch on, gentlemen. Let's go!
Don't give in. Don't give in.
He's losing a lot of blood! Let's go!
Get in the water! Now!
Don't fucking stop! You wouldn't stop on the battlefield! Come on, a bit of aggression!
The recruits have to be pushed like never before
-to try to prepare them for the physical demands of Afghanistan...
..and turn them into fighting machines.
Down the hill in a chair!
Whilst the sanitary towels are working for Ashley,
ex-hairdresser Lee is struggling with the intensity.
Pitch up and cool down. Well done.
Have a bit of grit determination to carry on when you're fucked.
Well fucking done.
Well done. All right?
-Everyone find that hard?
-ALL: Yes, Sir.
I was struggling.
ASHLEY: I enjoyed that, me.
He went, "Bit of aggression" and I went "Rrrgh!"
It were good. I proper enjoyed it. But because I'm so small, it was hard to pick people up.
-You've got to stop saying, "I can't do it."
-I did it!
I picked him up and I'm proud of myself. I didn't think I'd be able to do it.
I'm happy. I'm really happy. I enjoyed that thoroughly.
I've been waiting to actually do something.
Plus, that's getting your fitness up for your PFA.
And when I leave here in five weeks, I go home, big muscle man for Lauren!
We had the biggest lad, six foot three, and we were trying to drag him!
Still smashed it, though. I'm fucking proud of that.
I can take my fanny pads out now! BACKGROUND CHATTER
Do you want me to show you them? BOYS LAUGH
Agh! Fuck! That hurts!
They've expanded, look! Eurgh!
Whilst Ashley is upbeat about his new life as a soldier,
Lee is finding it difficult to adjust to army life
and is calling his mum for some moral support.
This is a difficult one, mate.
I mean, you don't get no freedom here.
You get told what to do, when to do it,
and if you don't abide by the rules, you get beasted.
Either that, or you're running all night, every night,
until they think...
..until they think, "Yeah..." or, like, when to stop.
Former tiler Andrew Forti is starting to lose patience with his fellow recruit Lee.
He just forgets most of the things that he's been taught really.
-He can't retain information, can he?
I don't think that, I think he gets in his own little world
and, er, just forgets everything.
I have no idea who you're talking about!
You don't mind helping people out,
but when it's constantly the same things over and over,
it can get a bit frustrating.
I think he's here for the wrong reasons.
When you say, "Why are you here, Lee?"
he's like, "For my brother." You should be here for yourself.
'If he thinks he's shit, he shouldn't be here.'
Lee's brother, Chris Howard,
was four months into a tour of Afghanistan
when one morning, on a routine patrol,
he stepped on an improvised explosive device,
When an explosion goes off, you feel the force of it first.
It's like a wave, a shockwave.
Like any explosion, you'll feel the shockwave before you hear it.
And I felt a shockwave
and then it went all black in the background, like, everything else.
Because obviously, all the dust kicks off,
you don't know what injuries you've got yet.
Obviously, my right hand, I lost three fingers, well, three-and-a-half fingers.
I've still got my thumb and a bit of my palm.
I lost half the hand.
I've got a fixed wrist now, so I can't bend it.
And that's it really. That's all my injuries.
I was quite lucky, really, compared to some others.
I was 18. He was 16.
He was doing hairdressing. I couldn't ever see him joining the army, personally.
He's not strong in the head, if you know what I mean. He's, er...
Not being horrible to him, but he's always had Mum there.
-Can you come and show me how to do these trousers, please?
CHRIS: He's not had to look after himself.
He's not had to stand up for himself at all.
The British Armed Forces currently have around 9,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan.
And for the infantry soldiers fighting the Taliban on the ground,
one of the most important pieces of equipment they carry is their rifle.
To be fit for duty, the recruits have to know it inside out,
as they could be fighting on the frontline within three months.
The SA80 A2 is your personal weapon.
You must become skilled in this weapon
-to kill all enemy on the battlefield. Do you understand?
-ALL: Yes, Corporal!
Starting from the front, the first thing that we have, lads,
is the muzzle and flash eliminator.
OK, then we have the trigger,
and safety catch.
Prep for firing out onto the point.
Make sure you've got your helmets and ear defence on.
Like most of the recruits, Ashley and Lee have never been around guns...
-Do you have to put these on?
-..let alone fired one.
I'm a bit nervous.
It's going to be mad, isn't it?
I bet you when first go, I'll be like that...
-You've got that added bit of pressure, haven't you?
-You've got that added bit of pressure.
-Because of your brother and that.
Right, Detail two... GUNSHOTS DROWN OUT SPEECH
..three, Howard. Four, Gerrard.
GUNSHOTS DROWN OUT SPEECH
You're detail two. They're your lanes. Make sure you go on them.
Firing the rifle and the feeling of live ammo has to become second nature to them.
In your own time, go on!
You're snatching the trigger. Take off your helmets and ear defence.
The army needs these lads to become proficient marksmen,
as it could save their life and the lives of their fellow soldiers.
Just needs tightening up. That'll come.
I find the best thing to do is fire, lower it a bit, bring it back up,
take a shot, lower it...
So you're not just in that aim position all the time.
-Besides that, not a bad effort. Patch up.
-What was that? That was standing.
-That's when you were snatching the trigger.
-Remember I told you?
-Put it in the shoulder a little bit more
-and not snatch the trigger. Happy?
Thinking that... Knowing that... HE STAMMERS
..you will be able to take a person's life with that weapon...
I think that's what happens in Afghanistan.
If they shoot at me, I'm going to shoot back.
I'd rather take his life than mine be taken, so...
It's been five weeks since the recruits joined the army and last saw their loved ones.
Tomorrow, their families will come to visit,
taking their sons back home with them for a long weekend.
But before the recruits can think about the luxuries of home...
-Nerve-racking, isn't it?
-Silly little things get picked up now. Things that you can't even spot.
..they need to pass their official inspection by their Officer Commanding
and be awarded their regimental berets.
And Lee is still slowing them down.
-Has that crease gone now?
-That looks shit, mate, to be fair.
-The creases are fine. It's shit because they're old.
-Cheers for the confidence, dickhead.
-I'm just telling you the truth.
OFFICER: We'll be coming round in 10 minutes!
-Oh, fuck off!
Where's my shirt?
Everything is getting...
-I haven't got mine yet.
-Are you only having one pair of boots in your locker?
Are these sleeves done up properly?
Major James Murray will be the highest-ranked officer
any of the recruits have met in their five weeks at Catterick.
He alone will inspect the recruits to decide whether or not they have made the grade
and deserve to receive their regimental berets.
It's about looking at how they maintain their kit and equipment...
Section! Two Section ready for your inspection, sir.
..and about ensuring they're maintaining their bodies
and personal hygiene and things like that.
-Good morning, guys.
-ALL: Morning, sir!
If they fail to pass his close scrutiny,
they will be back-squadded and could have to repeat their first five weeks of training.
The purpose of this morning's inspection really is
a chance for me to look at how you're living and coping,
and an opportunity for me to engage with you.
I don't want you to shout your name and number.
Clearly articulate who you are
and which battalion you may wish to join when you finish your training here at ITC Catterick.
Ashley is first under the spotlight.
-Right. Good morning.
-Good morning, sir.
I am 30123761, Rifleman Cavanagh, sir.
I wish to join Third Battalion of the Rifle, sir.
-Have you got anyone coming up?
-I have, sir.
-They're looking forward to it?
-Fantastic. It's going to be a good weekend.
-Let me see. Am I going to get a shock if I go in here?
-I don't think so, sir.
I'm pretty confident.
Morning, sir. I am 3006678, Rifleman Forti,
wishing to join the Fourth Battalion of the Rifle, sir.
-Clearly enjoying yourself.
-Has he always got that big smile on his face, Corporal?
-All the time.
-What are your plans for the weekend?
-Er, spending it with my mates, sir.
-OK. When you pass.
-Hopefully, sir. Yes, sir.
-Are you confident with your job?
-As confident as I can be, sir.
-My brother's in the Second Rifles
-How long's he been touring?
-Er, three years, sir.
-Did he do the last tour?
-Yes, sir. He was injured, sir.
OK. I heard about him. That's right.
You've already demonstrated that you are displaying a degree of confidence.
I want you to continue with that, but at no stage become cocky.
Be articulate, but don't be arrogant.
And what I want you do to is start becoming comfortable around rank.
And in so doing, I'm sure that you will develop as confident young rifleman.
OK? That was a good effort. A genuinely good effort. Well done to all of you.
-ALL: Thank you, sir.
-Good. Thanks, Corporal.
-Thank you, guys.
-ALL: Thank you, sir.
-Good effort, guys.
-Thank you, sir.
-Smashed that, didn't we?
-Well done, guys.
-Thank you, sir.
They'll now receive their regimental berets,
the first milestone in their army careers.
They're no longer the new recruits on the base.
You don't just get given this. It requires five weeks of really hard work.
I know you've faced a lot of challenges along the way.
Very richly deserved. Well done. Wear that with pride.
Congratulations. It doesn't come easy, does it?
They'll be treated with more respect,
have more freedom around the barracks,
and start to look like real soldiers.
-Fantastic. You look like a soldier already.
-Thank you, sir.
Good man. Congratulations. Well done.
As soon as you've got this beret on, you feel like you're starting then, starting the real work.
Wear it with pride. Well done.
-How are you?
-Fine, sir. Good.
-Let's get it off.
'I've never been motivated to do anything with my life
'before I started to think about joining the army.'
-Thank you, sir.
I couldn't really be bothered looking for a job
and I've kind of let my family down, I think,
in the last few years.
That's why I want to do this, not just for me, but for them, as well.
For Ashley's family, it's been a long, hard wait.
I can't wait to see him. It's been five weeks.
So it's... It's er... Yes, really looking forward to it.
Being away from home would've been hard. He likes his home comforts.
So I think coming home for the next few days is going to even harder,
because he's got to leave again.
Come on, then. We need to go.
Donna Payne is picking up her eldest son, Chris,
to make then long journey north to Catterick.
For Chris, this will be the first time he's been to Catterick since he was a young recruit.
It will be weird to see the outlook of the place again.
Bringing back memories. Good and bad.
-Five weeks - gone! Can't wait to see my brother.
-I can't wait to see mine.
See what he thinks of the place.
I'm nervous to go home! It's like GI Joe, staying here all the time.
But I can't wait to see my parents, definitely.
Look at him, he's like...!
I can't wait.
Just on time.
-Follow the track round to the car park on the left.
-If you'd like to follow the marshals, they'll take you round.
If you'd like to go with one of the marshals, they'll take you.
Very excited. It's getting quite emotional now.
Lee's roommate, Andrew Forti, has a three-year-old son
and has found not seeing him for five weeks difficult.
He won't really talk on the phone. He thinks I've just abandoned him.
Because he's three, he doesn't really understand it.
He says, "Why does my daddy want to be a soldier and not my daddy?"
Blown up in Afghan.
-Trod on a bomb.
-Trod on a bomb.
It's only nine months since it happened.
His brother's joined, so... all over again!
All looking forward to seeing your families?
ANDREW: I'm looking forward to seeing my little boy.
This is the weapon that your sons or family members have been using.
ONE BOY WHOOPS
Put your hand there.
OK, let's move on to the next one! Make sure you fetch it back to me.
-Do you want to have a rocket?
I'm going to march you down to the drill square.
Your parents are already doing the stands at the moment.
I'll follow you out and that's your chance to speak to your parents.
-OK. Stand. Ready!
-Move to your right. Quick, march.
Left, right, left, right,
left, right, left, right, left.
-Don't embarrass yourselves in front of your parents.
-Left, right, left.
Ready. To your right, fall out.
-Are you all right?
-Yes, are you?
-Hi, Mum. Are you all right?
-Are you all right, Dad?
-All right, mate?
-You've got a soldier?
Hello, bruv. How you doing?
Have you missed Daddy? Yes?
Where's your hair?
Back in Eastbourne, Lee's spending time with his girlfriend, Jo.
But the prospect of him going to war is one that they can't avoid.
-It's so scary. But...
-It's harder -
..somebody's got to do it and he's brave for doing it.
-It's harder because you've seen my brother.
-Definitely with his brother and everything that's happened.
-I try not to think about it, but I do all the time, don't I?
-I always say, "What if something happens to you?" But, no, he'll be fine.
I just have to try and not think about it too much until it comes to it.
Up in Doncaster, Darren Meads' mum and his friends are throwing him a surprise homecoming party.
Isn't that ace? Absolutely love it!
And his oldest mate, Sherry, has also joined the army.
We've always copied each other and done everything together.
If he went out with a chick, I went with her sister.
If we got drunk, we both got drunk and went home together.
Everything we've done together since we was God knows how young. Four years old?
Hello, everybody. MAN CHEERS
-What have you done to your hair?
-HE GRUNTS All right, lad?
-How you doing, son?
-Ignore me, then!
All right, mate?
-I didn't think you were back.
-Have you come back for this weekend?
-I blagged a day.
-Fucking nice one.
-What have you done to your hair? Get some gel on that!
-He's in Germany.
-Are you supposed to be in Germany?
-Good lad. Fucking love it. Well done.
Are you all right?
They've been around, his friends, some of them, since he were little.
They've been around forever.
They are important to him because that's all he's done for the last few years.
He's been in the TAs, but he's always been around.
They are important. More important, I think, than the girls.
Until he meets, I think, until he meets The One,
I think it might calm down a little bit.
But I hope not. Not yet. He's still young.
He's still got plenty life. There's plenty of time to settle down.
You've got your army friends, which you eat, sleep, you shit with together,
that's your mates, they've always got your back and they'll always be there,
that's one side of your life.
And then when you come home on your weekends and things like that,
if you haven't got your civvy mates, you're fucked.
This is why your civvy mates are important. Very important.
Obviously, I've always had that.
The bond that we've got, us lads, is like...
We'll always be together, no matter what.
Over in Leeds, being home for the weekend
has made Ashley question his decision to become a soldier.
When he returns to Catterick,
he'll have to decide whether or not he's prepared to commit to the army for the next four years
and go to war within the next 12 months.
I'm definitely thinking about it, because, in theory,
I could be going this year or next year.
Sometime next year, most likely.
And that's maybe, what, six months away after having this training.
In theory, my life could probably end in a year's time,
That's when I'm 20. That's what people need to think about.
Or I could come home with no legs.
That's what hits home. Nothing else.
Ashley and his dad are making the most of their weekend together.
It's not long until the conversation turns to Ashley's dilemma
of whether or not to stay in the army.
I'm going to be going to Afghan at least twice with my four years.
It's good going over there, I get to shoot a turbanator, all fun and well,
but it's not all fun and well when you step on a landmine and your leg's gone.
You've been on such a high and then you come home again
and you've thought about what you want to do.
And there's only you that can make that decision.
I think, fortunately, you've got a window to make that decision.
Nobody's twisting you arm. You can walk away now if you want to.
-It's not the same.
-I walk, I lose my pride.
I'm not suggesting that you do. What I'm saying is, it's entirely up to you.
I can advise you, as a father,
but, you know, it's got to be down to you.
My mind will be elsewhere, obviously, on not trying to get killed.
I won't have time to think about home until I come back and think, "Jesus, I could die."
You think it were bad when I left for five weeks? You were crying.
How do you think it's going to feel when, the day before I go to Afghan, I say, "I'm off to Afghan. Bye"?
That could be the last time we could see each other.
That doesn't bear thinking about, does it?
I'd be the happiest man in the world if, you know,
and not just for Ashley,
because I don't want to sound selfish,
but for all the guys, just for them to have a break for a while.
I just wish that, you know, the Afghan war could just go away.
I'd be the happiest man in the world because I'd say to Ashley,
"Go for it, mate. You go all over the world.
"You enjoy it. You build..."
Because I don't want him to go there.
I couldn't think of any worse thing
than, you know, being told that
your son's been killed, you know, through...
You know... You know, for what?
And it just doesn't sit well with me at all, and, you know,
I think as much as I want to support him...
you know, I don't really want him to go. You know?
But... I've got to leave that decision up to him.
-Show me your war face!
I'm actually worried about his,
well, mental health there.
Stop being weak!
I feel like crying.
Next man in!
What do you see?!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
This is one of the most dangerous times to join the British Army, with nearly 380 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and over 1,700 seriously injured, and yet thousands of young men from all over the country still want to join.
Young Soldiers charts the lives of four new recruits and their families on their journey from day one basic training through to frontline combat in Helmand.
The first episode tells the story of the first five weeks of their six-month basic training course in Catterick, North Yorkshire. The recruits have to be broken in and come to terms with a tough new army regime which will turn them from civvies into soldiers.
They aren't allowed to leave the base, have limited access to their phones and will have to get used to a daily wake-up time of 5am. If they can survive the first five weeks without quitting then they will be deemed worthy enough to be awarded their regimental berets and pass off the square.
On the home front, the families of these new recruits are also adjusting to a new regime, as they struggle with the decision their sons have made to join the army at such a dangerous time and their inevitable deployment to Afghanistan.