Despite the parades and the professions of gratitude, soldiers are more belittled today than at any time since the 19th century. Menacing, working-class men haunt middle-class nightmares. They appear all the more frightening when the services have trained them in the techniques of violence and sent them to Afghanistan and Iraq to hone their skills.
In contemporary cliche, the ex-serviceman is like a cornered animal. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that leaves him angry enough to lash out without reason. His road home takes him from Helmand province to Wormwood Scrubs via a spell living rough. A society that in the mid-20th century treated the squaddie as a working-class hero now depicts him as a thug.