Matt Kennard's article (M Star October 17) should come as no surprise to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of military history.
The military has always made use of criminals. Bertrand Russell once defined the word soldier as meaning "A psychopath with an off-switch."
The film The Dirty Dozen portrayed the recruitment of 12 psychopaths under sentence of death from Shepton Mallet military prison and their retraining as a commando unit. In fact most commando units were penal units, employing military criminals in what amounted to suicide missions.
When Orde Wingate set up the chindits, he recruited men from the military prison at Deolali, India.
Field Marshall Slim, who found the idea of commando warfare distasteful, wrote in his autobiography: "The best thing I can say about the chindits was that at least they took all the psychopaths under my command out of my hands."
Of course this policy has a long pedigree. In Ireland during the 1920s "Troubles," the British peacekeeping troops, the notorious "Black and Tans," were all recruited from military prisons, which would explain the number of atrocities they committed.
Britain and the US are not the only countries to do this. In France, the parachute units have long been penal units. The result was the level of brutality they exhibited in Algeria where they were used against freedom fighters in the 1950s.
And of course nazi Germany had its penal units "Dirlewanger battalions," responsible for some of the worst war crimes of World War II.
Britain has always been quick to parade convicts fighting in the enemy's forces and to put them on trial for war crimes after the war. Had WWII gone the other way, Germany and Japan would have had plentiful material for their own Nuremburg from the Allied camp.