Military non-freezing cold injuries

Serving in the armed forces invariably means being outside for prolonged periods – often in cold or wet climates. This can lead to a non-freezing cold injury (NFCI), sometimes known as ‘trench foot’, or ‘cold weather injury’. Left untreated, NFCI can lead to permanent damage to nerves and blood vessels.

NFCI happens when parts of the body (most often the hands and feet) are exposed to wet and cold conditions for long periods, without being dried and warmed up. Then on warming, sufferers may experience pain and a yellowish appearance in the affected area, or redness, swelling and significant and lasting pain. Often, the affected area becomes more sensitive to cold.

Cases range from mild to severe, with some injuries being so sensitive to cold that sufferers can’t work outside and may end up being medically discharged. NFCI is the most common form of injury suffered on military exercises. Many people don’t realise that the MoD, like any employer, has a duty of care to protect you from unnecessary NFCI by:

  • educating you in how to recognise and prevent the condition
  • equipping you with suitable boots and gloves fit for the conditions
  • limiting unnecessary exposure to wet or cold conditions
  • allowing you time to dry and warm up hands and feet
  • identifying and treating any signs of NFCI as soon as possible.

Where do you stand?

Unknown to many, Crown Immunity (which protects the MoD from civil or criminal prosecution) was lifted for members of the armed forces in 1987. This means if you served after this date, you have every right to make a civil as well as a War Pension or AFCS claim.

 You’re on firm ground

If you think you’ve suffered a non-freezing cold injury you might be entitled to compensation. It’s possible to claim even if you've been turned down for a payment under the AFCS or War Pension schemes. Both these no-fault schemes have very strict criteria, often resulting in smaller compensation payments or your claim being rejected, even though you may still be entitled to bring a civil claim.

Put your best foot forward

NFCI can be debilitating and affect all aspects of life – yet it is easily avoidable. In military circles, people have known about the condition since World War I, but many sufferers prefer to remain silent, often out of loyalty towards their regiment or the MoD. Or perhaps they feel responsible, as it was their choice to enlist. Or maybe they don’t want to admit to suffering from the condition.

Help is at hand – how to make a claim

Whether you’re a veteran or still serving, our highly experienced Military Services team will advise you for free on whether you have a civil claim for compensation. If we think you have a strong case, we’ll represent you on a no-win, no-fee basis. Plus, you can bring a civil claim at the same time as an AFCS or War Pension claim.

The Royal British Legion and Veterans Agency can help you apply for the AFCS or War Pension Scheme, or we can if you prefer. Either way, we always aim to achieve the best outcome for you, and to make the process as straightforward and simple as possible.

Get in touch

If you’ve suffered a non-freezing cold injury during your time in service – past or present – our team is ready to listen. Get in touch today.

Key contact

Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 20 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

View team


Throughout this process, Paul (Spiteri) has help me through it. He has been helpful and informed me of the pitfalls of this argument. If I need a solicitor in the future Hugh James will be my first point of contact.

Ronald Gardener


I'm very happy with my settlement and my solicitor Paul Spiteri.

Mr V


Great professional service received, informative along the way and kept up to date. I was very pleased with the outcome and would highly recommend.

Mr C | Military Deafness client


Simon and his team have been excellent throughout the lengthy process. From start to finish, they have displayed the utmost professionalism and excellent levels of communication. I cannot recommend Simon and the team highly enough!

Alastair Inglis


I can confirm that the level of service that I have been given by Paul Spiteri at Hugh James has been both professional and exceptional. The quantity of communication from Paul and his team has been outstanding including the support and advice that I have been given. I would definitely recommend Hugh James to my friends and relatives.

Mr T


Firstly, I would like to thank the whole team for all their hard work. This was not an easy time for me at times diving into my past, but your team were very supportive and I would wholeheartedly recommend your service. Mr Spiteri has kept me updated all along and he left no stone unturned. Thank you.

Mark John Adams

Business news, knowledge and insight