‘I had to tell this story for the thousands of other women who have been harmed by the toxic culture that pervades the British Army.’

Pink Camouflage is a hard-hitting, eye-opening account of one woman’s experience of the abuse and misogyny she suffered while serving as  in the British Army. In this introduction, author Gemma Morgan details the trauma she dealt with following her exit and how she came to accept help.


Pink Camouflage
By Gemma Morgan
Published by Luath Press


He found me by the roadside, delirious and choking. I was 33, happily married with two beautiful young children, a poster girl for female achievement with a stellar Army service record and a glittering international sports career.  

But behind this golden public image, I was a wreck. The British Army had taught me to achieve more than I ever thought I could – but it was a lesson that came at a price. The reality of the Army’s quest for gender equality meant moulding – forcing – female recruits to fit masculine ideals. Desperate to be part of the team, I tried to camouflage my femininity, to crush and slowly dismantle my identity.  

The Army’s toxic culture – the sexual abuse and misogyny – prepared the ground for the nightmares long before I saw the man lying dead in the snow in pools of bright red, frozen blood. The sexism of life in barracks undermined me long before I saw the shreds of flesh hanging off shattered limbs and the soulless dark brown eyes. I was a soldier, but contrary to everything I had been led to believe, I found myself powerless to alleviate the suffering all around me. 

When I was deployed on a highly unusual operation as a soldier out of uniform with no military back-up, not even a satellite phone, the Army neither offered me guidance, nor asked how I was faring. When I came back to Britain, they never asked what it was like to be an unarmed soldier in civilian clothing deployed in the middle of the blood and mayhem. 

I left the Army on my own accord. I ran away, hoping the nightmares would stop. There was no medical discharge. One minute you were in. The next you were gone. My new identity ripped from me. The nightmares replayed again and again in my head. I could not unsee what I had seen. 

Then a grenade was thrown into the mix. I gave birth to a baby girl. Motherhood left me lost and alienated. I was a soldier who had no idea how to be a mother. The Army had stolen my femininity. Behind closed doors, vodka, Valium and sleeping pills numbed the pain. Panic distorted the world. It left me isolated and alone. I was constantly on my guard, checking behind me, scanning every window, every corner. I stopped answering the phone and hid when the doorbell rang. I walked with a look designed to make someone think twice. I was more like a bodyguard than a mother.  

I found myself drowning, gasping for any pocket of air. In the room, but not really present, not part of the world. Parts of me began to shut down. There was no-one to turn to. The ties with my military family had been cut. Back in the day, there was no help from charities like Help for Heroes – they didn’t yet exist. The NHS doctors I saw seemed baffled and confused. Then after seven years of hiding, I hit a rock bottom that led me to that desolate roadside.  

In 2006, I was diagnosed with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first, it brought a feeling of intense relief. It was vindication after years of being ignored. Years of thinking that I was at fault. Identifying behind four letters – PTSD – made living easier. It stopped the questions and offered an explanation. I used it to articulate who I was, what I was not and why my suffering and illness were somehow valid.  

But as the years passed, I began to wonder how such a short period of time had left such a lasting impact on me. I was in the Army for less than seven years. It was a drop in the ocean, but the ripples of trauma have travelled with me and seeped into each and every part of my life. It has infected those I love and it has destroyed those that I have loved. But I have also been blessed. With the support of my family and the professional help of doctors and therapists I have been able to rebuild my life.  

In Narrative Therapy in 2007 we were told to write down our life story. It helped me, but I hated sharing what I had written. Pink Camouflage grew out of that first session. Fear gripped me as I began to write. Each word challenged my urge to remain invisible, to hide. I stopped and put the manuscript away in a drawer time and time again, but it kept calling me back, pushing me to confront who I really am, to make sense of things for myself, on my own. I had to tell this story for the thousands of other women who have been harmed by the toxic culture that pervades the British Army. It is not the trauma that steals so many lives. It is the shame and guilt. Pink Camouflage has been an exorcism: I refuse to entertain this devil into my 50s. 


Pink Camouflage by Gemma Morgan is published by Luath Press, priced £12.99.

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