Stammering - The Unspeakable Truth

The programme demonstrates the difficulty a stammer can bring when working in a high pressured environment like the military but also how...

By Amy Matthews, Forces News reporter and programme producer

One in a hundred people have a stammer – did you know that? I didn’t! In fact, I didn’t know much about the condition at all before I started working on 'Stammer - The Unspeakable Truth'.

Back in 2015, I was working in Germany and one day this brave soldier walked into the office and said to me: 'My name is Emmanuel Ottih, I serve with 2 Medical Regiment in North Germany and I have a stammer. I would like to raise awareness of the condition and offer support to anyone serving who has a stammer by introducing them to our Defence Stammering Network. I, alongside two other people, have set it up to help people in the Forces with the condition.'

And that is how the first programme 'My War With Words' came about.

Three years on from there, I wanted to see how the network was doing and discover whether more military personnel had come forward with the condition during that time.

When the programme was aired in 2015 they had 13 members – I was soon to discover that in three years they now had over 100 members.

With the help of Walter Scott, a civil servant at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and co-founder of the network – we set about finding military personnel who were happy to tell their story.

Take Captain Jimmy Lang for example, he went into the Black Watch as a young recruit and since then has worked his way up through the ranks.

In the programme he relieves the moment he walked into the recruitment office:

"There was a big recruiting Sergeant there who rightfully told me, 'Wee man, you've got a stammer you might never get promoted and you might never become an instructor'... I really wanted to join and if you are telling me I can't.

"I will make my mission to prove you wrong."

'Stammering - The Unspeakable Truth' demonstrates the difficulty the condition can bring when working in a high pressured environment like the military but also how they have all learnt to not let it get in the way:



Capt Jimmy Lang feels that, since then, the Army has encouraged him to go from strength to strength and to this day he believes they recognise him for his skills, not his stammer.

He Lang believes 'a person is a lot more than just his stammer and is extremely proud of being a commissioned officer.' He never expected to do this well in his career:

"It was a challenge enough just to get in the door, before I had even spoken to anyone about joining up."

Those are the words of Corporal Howard Charlton. In the programme, you hear how his condition has held him back in many ways throughout his military career in the Royal Air Force.

With speech therapy, he has been able to get a handle over his stammer and now feels a lot more confident talking in group situations and on the phone – things he used to really struggle to deal with.

For Corporal Dan Rudge, a career as a medic has involved moments of extreme stress. In 2013, he was mentioned in dispatches on his return from Afghanistan after giving life-saving aid to four men.

Despite the pressure he was under to save lives, his stammer completely disappeared:

"I was so focused on my job in which I had to perform and give clear instructions, it didn’t really show up whatsoever."

All of the participants in this programme believe there is a lot more that could be done to gain a better understanding of the condition and recognise the importance of speaking out about it, so that others can do the same.

It has been a pleasure getting to know each of the men individually and I feel very privileged that I got the opportunity to hear their stories.

I was overwhelmed with their bravery, their attitudes towards their condition and their determination to not let it get in the way of their success.

I believe that with the help of the Defence Stammering Network more people will be inclined to sign up who are suffering from the condition, knowing that once they are serving they have the support from others going through the same thing.

In the special programme below we hear from members of the armed forces who want to tell their story and break down misconceptions about the condition: