Soldier sent to war ‘despite reports he was suicidal’

Nathan Hunt
Nathan Hunt served two tours in Afghanistan despite a struggle with his mental health

The father of a British soldier who served with Prince Harry in Afghanistan claims his son was sent to war despite being diagnosed with mental health problems.

Derek Hunt believes the Army failed in its duty of care towards his son Nathan, who took his own life after struggling with PTSD and depression for several years.

Mr Hunt is campaigning to have his son’s name added to the memorial wall at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire but defence chiefs have refused, claiming that his death was not linked to his Army service.

Mr Hunt, himself a former Army sergeant, has recently been sent over 200 pages of military medical documents which he says show that his son had serious mental health issues after serving in Iraq, four years before he was sent to Afghanistan in 2008 and again in 2009.

Nathan Hunt was a warrant officer in the Royal Engineers and served with Prince Harry in Afghanistan in 2008, as part of a Household Cavalry unit.

He earned a Mention In Dispatches for locating roadside bombs, potentially saving many soldiers’ lives, including Prince Harry. Nathan was 39 years old and divorced with a child when he died from suicide in 2018.

Nathan Hunt, bottom right, with soldiers in Helmand, Afghanistan, including Prince Harry, pictured above Mr Hunt
Nathan Hunt, bottom right, with soldiers in Helmand, Afghanistan, including Prince Harry, pictured above Mr Hunt - John Stillwell/PA Wire

Prince Harry wrote to the family a week after Nathan’s death, saying that he was “deeply saddened”.

He wrote: “The work we were engaged in was made easier and safe thanks to the challenging work Nathan undertook.”

The family later had a private meeting with both Harry and Meghan.

Both the late Queen and King Charles expressed sympathy for Mr Hunt after he wrote to them as part of his campaign.

The new medical documents obtained by Mr Hunt reveal that Nathan’s mental health issues began to emerge after his return from Iraq in 2003, where his unit was attacked by a US combat jet.

Army medical reports from 2005, two years after he returned from Iraq, reveal that he was suicidal, drinking to excess, and had suffered from low mood swings and depression.

In the same year, a different report stated that Nathan had intermittent thoughts of self harm and suicide “in response to recent life stresses” and had been found with superficial cuts to his wrist.

Another report shows that in 2008, just months before Nathan would be sent to Afghanistan for a second tour, he was again referred to a psychiatrist for help after suffering what were described as stressful incidents in which he was blown up three times while on operations a year earlier

Symptoms of PTSD

In 2010, he was assessed by a clinical psychiatric nurse at an Army mental health centre where he was said to be exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, depression and low mood.

One letter from 2010 noted: “He (Nathan) finds he thinks about his time in Afghanistan all of the time. He did find that loud bangs were starting to affect him increasingly towards the end of the tour. He started to react even to explosive charges that he had laid and detonated himself, which worries him as a professional engineer. His father suffers from depression and PTSD from his service in Northern Ireland. He sees a lot of himself in his father’s behaviour.”

Mr Hunt, from Lincolnshire, said: “I have been campaigning for almost five years to have my son’s name added to the memorial at the national arboretum but for some reason the Ministry of Defence are refusing to allow it. Other soldiers who died after taking their own lives have had their names added to the memorial. I have ample evidence to show the MoD that Nathan’s mental health issues were caused by his military service.

“I now have proof that as far back as 2003, Nathan was traumatised by the effects of war when he was involved in a friendly fire incident in Iraq. He was then sent to Afghanistan in 2008 with Prince Harry where he experienced more trauma. He was blown up three times and witnessed Afghan soldiers being blown to pieces. He was sent back to Afghanistan less than a year later but as far as the MoD are concerned this didn’t have any impact on him.”

An Army spokesman said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and is felt deeply within the Armed Forces community. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of WO2 Nathan Hunt.”

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