They don’t come home in flag draped coffins. Crowds do not line the street in silent tribute to their sacrifice.   They are the fallen heroes the government keeps in the shadows; private security contractors who’ve lost their lives servicing British interests in hostile environments.   It’s high time they were honoured.

Those familiar with my writings will know that this is a topic very close to my heart.  For years I’ve been shouting from the rafters for government to externally regulate private security firms with operations abroad.  Rather than demand greater transparency and accountability from an industry which has earned billions from military contracts, the government is content to let PSCs self-regulate.  As a result, there is still no law requiring PSCs to report the deaths of employees overseas or divulge how many contractors are wounded or suffer mental trauma as a result of their work.  It’s all swept under the rug.

The current ‘self-regulating’ model clearly benefits both government and PSC shareholders.  The politicians can conceal the true cost of policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict areas while PSCs can maintain the illusion that the tremendous profits they earn from military and other government contracts are blood-free.  It’s disgraceful.  Moreover, it’s a recipe for further loss of life.  Many PSCs conceal incidents not only from the public but from their own employees still operating on the ground.  You get one chance in a hostile location.  If the men and women working at the coal face can’t learn from past situations, the same fatal errors are destined to be repeated again and again.

To honour the fallen and save lives in future, I would like to see the government implement the following measures:

  1. Require PSCs to report all British employee deaths abroad to the FCO.
  2. Require PSCs to maintain a public data base listing the names, incident dates and country where the incident took place (i.e, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.) of all employees killed or wounded on overseas operations since 1 January 2002 including British nationals, local nationals and third country nationals (it’s no more and no less than a British soldier would get).
  3. Require PSCs to provide continuing care and financial support to employees who have been wounded or suffered mental trauma as a result of their service in hostile environments.
  4. Formally acknowledge the sacrifice of all private security contractors who’ve died servicing British military contracts and other commercial contracts that support our national interests by honouring them on Remembrance Day.

None of this will come about unless the greater public demands it. Ordinary citizens are usually shocked when I tell them that there are Brits still dying on the roads of Iraq even though the military ended combat operations in the country last year.  I explain to them that these heroes weren’t soldiers but security contractors working in support of British and US government policy.

It would help tremendously if the media would give a more balanced and fair view of security contractors.  Journalists love to report on heartless ‘mercenaries’ shooting civilians willy-nilly.  Just like the military, The Circuit does have a tiny minority of cowboys.  But the overwhelming majority of private security contractors are, like soldiers, honest people trying to do an honest job securing the interest of Britain and its allies abroad.   In fact, many security contractors used to serve in the military.

There are MPs, former cabinet ministers and retired military brass sitting on the boards of PSCs.  That’s one powerful gang with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  Maybe I’m an old dreamer but I’m convinced that if the British public shouts loud enough, the government and industry will be forced to change their ways.  Like most movements, this one needs to start at the grassroots.  I’d like to see the families and friends of the fallen come together and demand the government acknowledge the sacrifices of their loved one.  I’d like to see contractors currently serving in hostile environments demand greater support and transparency from their employers. Otherwise nothing will change, more contractors will die and the dead will remain in the shadows.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Private Security ReformTags, , , , 10 Comments

10 thoughts on “BRITAIN’S HIDDEN HEROES”

  1. Bob,
    You should really get yourself on facebook and start drumming up support there. With 500,000,000 members, it’s not a bad foundation for raising much needed awareness.
    Looking forward to the new book, and please keep up the blogging!
    All the best,

  2. Its about time the government and media reported on the exact number of British casualties which would include not only soldiers but all those working for our country. Maybe then the country will see how hollow the statements of success are regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. A brave couragous person needs no uniform or medals to prove it. A returning coffin should always be respected as they have paid the ultimate sacrifice for a country who seem less and less aware and informed of why they died in the first place.

  3. Bob, I agree with you that the government should not conceal the fact that PSCs are being used and the fight is still going on, with PSC employees being wounded and dying overseas. However, I do not think the full names and addresses should be published for the general public. If the Islamic opposition sees the family names of wounded or dead (or, for that matter, current PSC employees), the Islamic opposition could cause reprisals in England to those families. PERSEC is called for, for the safety of those family members.

    Get on FaceBook and publish your ideas to a larger audience. You can get up to 5,000 ‘friends’ but an unlimited number of ‘fans’. Good job and best wishes, KarlinPhoenix (former U.S. Army Ranger).

    1. Thank you for your great comment Karlin,

      OPSEC/PERSEC is just as important for security contractors as for soldiers. I’m asking for no more or no less than a soldier gets when killed, recognition. A name, date and location (ie Iraq, Afghanistan etc) is all that is required.

      Thanks again and very best regards.
      Bob Shepherd

  4. Bob,
    As a security advisor operating in Asia Pacific I am seeing similar scenarios with inexperienced operatives with no idea doing CP work protecting executives around Asia. Given the threats are not the same as active war zones, the tasks still carry the same fundamental processes. Planning, planning and planning be it for IED’s or irate shareholders throwing shoes or cream pies. Too often, even I get the excuse of budgetary constraints to carry out some of the most basic requirements, i.e. a limo driver rather than a security trained driver, no money for first aid kits, etc…(although I have ways of by-passing these constraints at my cost. There should be a regulated global organization, such as an International Deployment Group that each government controls to ensure ANY person operating abroad meets a specific criteria for particular tasks (including bare minimum equipment), be it CP, investigations, or infrastructure protection. Coming from Australia where our industry is regulated and controlled by police there are bare minimum requirements to pass to get a licence. These are by far not enough to work abroad protecting the interests of western corporations. I will never accept a task in a war zone because I am not trained for deployment in a war zone. I know shopping centre security guards who have worked in Iraq…not a smart move from the CSC or the operative. We need security advisors to actively join together to form an International Deployment Group administered by their relevant countries who determine skill levels for tasks. If you leave it up to the CSC, the focus is margins and bottom line.
    Cheers from China!

    1. Thanks for your comments Angelo,

      So sorry to hear that things are just the same in your area of expertise. The only way It’ll change is for the lads and lassies on the ground to shout out loud and make the general public (including potential clients of the CSCs) aware of what’s wrong. When someone is killed wounded or abducted it’s far too late!
      All the very best, take good care and keep shouting.

  5. The loopholes need to be closed and these good men and women need the recognition that their professional and dangerous work deserves especially when carrying out work on behalf of this country.As a former member of the armed forces I appreciate and know how it is and agree these conditions and proper recognition need to be properly addressed by the governments concerned.

  6. Bob,
    This has been a long time coming. The coalition casualty list in Iraq from 03 onwards outweighs BritMil by some yards, clearly I am not bad mouthing the British Military but context is important. Equally a brilliant point that you made, accountability. So far I have worked for Malcolm Rifkin, Frederick Forsyth and other massively high earners who maintain their anonymity as well as their phenomenal sums of money. I am UK based now but on today of all days I missed many of my brothers on the circuit as I did the blokes I served with in the mob. Keep up the good work and I will be intrigued and supportive of your progress. Stay safe mate.

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