Sue Glenton's speaks in Italy

Speech delivered by Joe Glenton's mother in VIncenza, 21 February 2010

Thank you for inviting me here today.


I was on the first Stop the War march in Feb 2003 in London, and was furious then that Blair & Co were not listening to the 1 million plus people in attendance. How strange that my son Joe’s involvement with Stop the War may be forcing them to listen now.


I am here in support of my son, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, and his stance on the war in Afghanistan.  Following his first tour of duty Joe decided that he could not in all conscience, return for a second. His dilemma was increased by the fact that he could not leave the army for a year, and that despite going through the chain of command his concerns were not acknowledged.

Sue interviewed by weekly magazine L'espresso

During induction shortly after joining the army Joe and his colleagues attended an intensive training day C DRILS.


C’ Courage

D’ Discipline

R’ Respect for others

I’ Integrity

L’ Loyalty

S’ Selfless Commitment


He was taught during these sessions that it was his duty as a soldier to report any breach of these moral and ethical standards, whether a breach was carried out by a colleague or by an organisation. Service personnel are obliged to report any vestige of wrongdoing.


During his time in Afghanistan he began to question whether the war he was part of was meeting the requirements of the code. He had been told initially that the reason for UK troops being in the country was to bring about peace, improve the situation for women and combat the threat of terrorism in the UK. As time went on we all heard lots more reasons, “Mission Creep” in military language.  None of these rang true and still don’t.


He saw that the benefits of UK forces being in the country were negligible and that the Afghani people did not welcome the military presence despite the publicity about the aims of reconstruction, improving security and rebuilding infrastructure.


Joe was promoted on his return to the UK, three years ahead of his promotion curve, demonstrating that the army found him an exemplary soldier with potential to advance. This exemplary soldier did not take the decision to go AWOL lightly but left the country…


He returned to the UK in 2009 with his wife Clare and gave himself up to the military. His initial charge of AWOL was upped to desertion without explanation a few weeks later. The difference being two years as opposed to a possible ten years in prison.


In conjunction with Stop the War he went public and spoke alongside Malalai Joya, the Afghani MP who was expelled from the Afghani parliament.  He handed in a letter to Gordon Brown in July 09, and then he spoke in Trafalgar Square in London Oct 2009, despite orders from his army superiors. He was arrested in November and kept in Colchester Military Detention Centre for five weeks.


During this time his legal support arranged an appointment with a civilian psychiatrist in London, who diagnosed him with PTSD.  Joe was released at a hearing in December following receipt of this information. Although it was a necessary appointment, the military did not care to organise its own report until January.


I knew that Joe was suffering with PTSD since his return from Afghanistan in October 2006.  I saw that he was not sleeping or eating properly, he was unable to concentrate and isolated himself from friends.  This got worse when he was told of his impending return to Afghanistan in May 2007.


Two days before the pre-trial hearing in February the prosecution called to ask if Joe would offer a guilty plea for AWOL if all other charges were dropped. I believe the reason for this sudden change was due to Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcot Enquiry on the same day, Friday 29th January. The potential headlines would not have not been acceptable to the Ministry of Defence: ‘Joe gets jail, Blair gets asked a few polite questions’. The current situation is that the desertion charge and others have been dropped and we are now back at the start with a charge of AWOL to which Joe now pleads guilty - court martial on 5th March in Colchester.


Joe has an excellent legal team and we are optimistic about the outcome. The responses from all over the world have been overwhelming, thousands have signed the petition, sent cards, emails and letters.  We are heartened by the  support of Stop the War, Payday and voices of military, ex military, students,  pensioners, parents and friends of soldiers who want this to stop and hope that Joe’s stance will make a difference.


When Joe was on his first tour, I used to freeze when I heard the word “Afghanistan” on radio or TV.  Time would stand still as I waited to hear who and where. The sense of relief was soon replaced by a flood of guilt thinking about the family who were receiving the military visit.  I still react now to that same word “Afghanistan”.  How many other families and friends anywhere behave the same way, and in Afghanistan how many mothers have the same emotion on a minute by minute basis, how much greater is their concern. And how many have died and been injured there.


71% of British people at the last poll wanted the troops out and the war to stop. Joe and I were involved with Refugee Council in the early 90s and have friends in Afghanistan. If some politician can show me any benefit to UK, Afghanistan and the rest of the world by the troops’ presence in that country, I ask them to get in touch and explain it to me.


Thank you.


Watch Sue Glenton interview with Italian weekly L'espresso (in Italian)