West African Soldier Sues MoD Over Severe Cold During Military Exercise

Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph, October 1, 2016

A soldier born in Ghana is suing the Ministry of Defence for £200,000 claiming he suffered severe cold during a military exercise in Wales.

Gershon Rawlings, 33, has brought the negligence claim arguing his West African ethnicity made him more likely to suffer than other troops.

According to his lawyers he suffered numbness and tingling in his feet after being made to sleep outdoors in a waterproof poncho.

In a writ filed at the High Court in London, Mr Rawlings says he was forced to remain out in ‘very cold and wet’ conditions during the two-week exercise with the Royal Artillery in October 2013, the Sun reported.

He claims that the experience left him with ‘disadvantages’ which have limited his chance of getting another job.

When Mr Rawlings complained at the time of the exercise his sergeant told him other soldiers were also cold and he should “man up”, it is alleged.

The case comes just months after Abdoulie Bojang, who was born in the Gambia, launched a claim against the MoD after suffering cold injuries in Banff, Canada, where temperatures dip to minus 22F (minus 30C).

Mr Rawlings, who is now studying at university, says that during his exercise in Sennybridge, mid-Wales, he was not given enough hot food and drinks “on a regular basis” to ward off the cold.

The legal action claims the Army provided him with waterproof boots and standard issue gloves which did not allow for his ‘particular vulnerabilities’.

The writ prepared for the claim says he was diagnosed with ‘non-freezing cold injuries’, or NFCIs, and placed on restricted duties.

But despite his diagnosis he was still required to parade, “required to work in open, cold garages”, and carry out guard duties in the open air.

Mr Rawlings’ legal team claims the Army’s failings have left their client “disadvantaged” over future jobs and ended his military career.

Photographs posted on Facebook of the ex-soldier wearing fatigues attracted a comment from a friend which reads: “Strong man in war front.”

A NFCI comes about when the core temperature of the body remains below its natural level for a long period of time.

At that point the blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow and the supply of oxygen to the hands and feet. This is harmful even though body tissue does not freeze.

Nerve and blood vessel damage can occur without immediate treatment, sometimes causing permanent injury.

At least 450 Commonwealth soldiers have suffered cold injuries in the past decade, according to figures released at the time of Mr Bojang’s claim earlier this year.

Mr Rawlings told The Sun: “Everything is with the lawyers. I have an anxiety issue so can’t speak to you.”

The MoD is reported as admitting Mr Rawlings developed NFCIs but says he must prove how serious they are, and how they have damaged his prospects.

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