Prison and PTSD: The Veterans’ Survival Guide

My undiagnosed PTSD led to the death of two innocent men and 40 years in prison

... Image: David

Ex-servicemen suffering from PTSD in prison are “invisible time bombs”. Image: David

Ex-serviceman Jimmy Johnson is currently serving a second life sentence for murder in a Category A prison. In his new book he seeks to prevent other veterans from following the same path.


“If ex-servicemen aren’t treated for PTSD, it’s like releasing tigers into a school playground” – Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson, a former Corporal in the Royal Tank Regiment of the British Army is currently serving a second life sentence for murder at HMP Frankland. But he wants to stop other veterans suffering the same fate.

The ex-serviceman has written a practical guide to help veterans and families suffering from combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Last week in a speech delivered on his behalf at the Tower of London, Jimmy said: “This disclosure has been 44 years in the making, that is exactly the length of time since I was first unknowingly psychologically wounded by combat related PTSD in Northern Ireland in 1972.

Soldiers during live firing training exercises at Castlemartin, Wales. The Tidworth-based tank regiment were joined by Attack Helicopters from the Army Air Corps, and a Tornado GR4 from the RAF. ------------------------------------------------------- © Crown Copyright 2013 Photographer: Cpl Si Longworth RLC Image 45155344.jpg from This image is available for high resolution download at subject to the terms and conditions of the Open Government License at Search for image number 45155344.jpg For latest news visit Follow us:

Jimmy Johnson served as a Corporal in the Royal Tank Regiment and saw some of the worst of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles” in the 1970s. Image: Defence Images

“I now know that my undiagnosed PTSD led to the tragic deaths of two innocent men, and consequently resulted in me serving two life sentences and nearly 40 years in prison.”

Through his story Jimmy hopes to revolutionise the lives of veterans and their families who are suffering from combat related PTSD by providing “a complete comprehensive read” to help readers “understand what combat related PTSD is really about”.

Jimmy’s story

General the Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, worked with Jimmy to produce this guide. He wrote:

“By the time The Veterans’ Survival Guide is published Jimmy Johnson will be 70, but in the early 1970s he was a young and successful soldier.

“He was a dedicated and a bold soldier – he has the oak leaf of a Mention in Dispatched on his Northern Ireland General Service Medal to prove it. Yet Jimmy suffered mental illness that led to the murder of two men and faces the prospect of never being released from prison.

“40 years on it is easy to forget the intensity of the violence during the so-called “Troubles”. In 1972 alone, 102 British soldiers lost their lives fighting to keep Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.”

In his guide Jimmy describes the events that haunted his dreams for years to come and ultimately destroyed his marriage and resulted in the murder of two innocent men.

“I knew I had killed two men, I knew I had to be punished, but I also knew that something was not right, and I was determined to find out what”

Within four months of leaving the Army, Jimmy was arrested for killing a man and served nine year in prison. In The Veterans’s Survival Guide Jimmy said: “I had absolutely no explanation for what I had done.”

Eighteen months after being released Jimmy killed another man, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentence to life imprisonment, which he is still serving. That was over 40 years ago.

In 2000 Jimmy was finally diagnosed with PTSD by the War Pensions Agency and in 2001 he was diagnosed with severe PTSD.

Jimmy said: “These medical reports finally gave me a reason why I was in prison. But this mental disorder was never taken into account at the time of my trials. I was never treated during my first prison sentence, therefore in a way I was also failed by the Criminal Justice system.”

In his guide, Jimmy describes veterans suffering from PTSD in prison as “invisible time bombs” and are “wrapped as though in a cocoon” protected from pressures that might spark flashbacks.

Jimmy hopes his guide will help other Veterans suffering from PTSD

Jimmy hopes his guide will help other Veterans suffering from PTSD

“All veterans of conflicts in the prison system should be checked, and if found to be suffering from this mental disorder, treated. If not, they are coming out of prison exactly the same condition they entered – as this hidden and devastating mental disorder does not miraculously disappear with age!”

To find out more about the number of ex-servicemen in prison read our guide to why so many ex-servicemen end up in prison.

“We want this guide in GPs surgeries, police custody suites and prison libraries throughout the UK” 

Lord  Dannatt explained: “Photocopied versions of the Guide have been circulated informally by Jimmy through his Veterans in Prison network, but we recognised that more people could benefit from the Guide.

“This is just one man’s story and advice, but if we can find ways of using the Guide to help others have a fulfilling and safe life and beat this wretched PTSD then Jimmy’s work will all have been worthwhile.”

The Veterans’ Survival Guide, published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd and sponsored by ABF/The Soldiers’ Charity, Help for Heroes and Jim Davidson of Care after Combat, is available from

2 Comments on “Prison and PTSD: The Veterans’ Survival Guide”

  1. Jack English says:

    I have purchased this immediately and will endeavour to bring it to the attention of HMP Northumberland within the VICS meetings I run. Looking forward to reading the guide.


  2. Barry Kyle says:

    The very people who are alegedly put in place to help us,are Under qualified and unprepared in how to even know were to start with “combat exposure PTSD”as a diagnosed veteran who suffers from “severe PTSD and Explosive Personality Disorder”which comes with the LABEL “highly volatile,with unpredictable bouts of extreme violence”who has shown no remorse nor empathy towards the injured party,honestly I could go on and on,but fortunately I have never been held accountable for any wave of destruction I have left behind, and it took me being shot in the head on a street in Glasgow to learn how to control that “volcano”that consumes my insides,but I know that it’s still there and at any time it can errupt without warning,I used to get the tingling feeling up the back of my neck and head but as the years went by I had no prior warning, and once the damage was done I would come back into myself and carry on without a second thought,I don’t know if this has made any sense to anybody else but that’s just the way life was for so many years, and Jimmy I’m sorry that the establishment(government)failed you in such a horrendous manner I truly am,I have lived with my motto NEVER RUN
    Take care my fellow brother and your NEVER fighting alone B 1st Bn RHF


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