British soldiers who suffered appalling injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan were verbally abused as they swam in a public swimming pool.
From the UK Daily Mail:
During a weekly rehabilitation class at a council leisure centre, 15 servicemen including several who have lost limbs or suffered severe burns were heckled and jeered by members of the public.
One woman was so incensed that the troops were using the pool at Leatherhead Leisure Centre in Surrey that she told them they did not deserve to be there.
She became increasingly abusive, screaming that it was wrong for staff to rope off a lane exclusively for the injured personnel from the nearby Headley Court rehabilitation centre.
The swimmer, thought to be in her 30s, is understood to have said: “I pay to come here and swim ? you lot don’t.”
The abuse was witnessed by 79-year-old Korean War veteran Charles Murrin, who said yesterday: “I could not believe what she was saying.
“The lane was roped off, which they do every week. It wasn’t as if the pool was completely closed. Her group had the rest of the pool to swim in.
“She said the men do not deserve to be in there and that she pays money to come in the pool and they don’t.”
The soldiers, who use the pool as part of a water therapy course, were quickly ordered out by their instructor to avoid further embarrassment.
Mr Murrin, who served in the Royal Navy, added: “I spoke to the instructor in the changing room afterwards and he was livid.
“I know what these people are going through, because I talk to them and I have got quite friendly with them.”
Linda Sinclair, of Leatherhead, also witnessed the abuse.
She said:”It was a few people that were complaining and it made me cross. I really felt for those soldiers.”
The incident, which took place on November 13, came as a national appeal was launched to raise £5million to build a new rehabilitation pool and gym at Headley Court.
The centre treats 180 injured servicemen who have to make a half-hour trip to Leatherhead to use the pool.
Last night, Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former infantry commander, told of his dismay at the incident.
He said: “It may well be that these people had paid for the use of the pool, but our soldiers have paid so much more for their country.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are disappointed that a small number of people objected to the closure of swimming lanes so that patients of Headley Court could use them.”
A spokesman for Mole Valley District Council, which owns the leisure centre, said: “There appears to have been a rare incident where two members of the public queried the provision of lanes of the swimming pool for Headley Court.
“While we wouldn’t condone what happened, staff did their best to accommodate all concerned and acted professionally in dealing with the situation.”