Two soldiers who were involved in an unprovoked attack on three other soldiers in a late night attack in Colchester city centre have been given suspended prison sentences.

One of the victims suffered a broken jaw in two places and underwent surgery during which his jaw was stabilised with metal plates and bolts, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Another victim, who was an army section commander, suffered a fractured jaw which required the insertion of metal plates and screws and a fractured eye socket.

As a result of their injuries neither of the soldiers were able to go on a planned exercise to north Macedonia, said Juliet Donovan, prosecuting.

Before the court were Jake Girling, 26, of Porson Road, Norwich, and Charlie King, 23, of Smiths Wharf, Wantage.

They admitted two offences of inflicting grievous bodily harm, affray and assault causing actual bodily harm which were committed on April 1 last year.

They were each given a 24-month prison sentence suspended for 24 months and 90 hours unpaid work. They were also each ordered to pay £494 compensation to one victim and £387 each to the other.

Sentencing them, Recorder Paul Garlick said: "I see before me two young men who are well dressed, wearing your poppies of whom the army speaks in exemplary terms.

"I compare that with your conduct in the street in Colchester on April 1 last year and those two pictures are utterly different," said the judge.

He said they had let down themselves and the army.

The court heard that the violence started when two groups of soldiers, who didn’t know each other, met outside a kebab shop in St Botolphs Street, Colchester.

One of the defendants had tried to shake the hand of one of the victims but he had been smoking a cigarette and didn’t hold out his hand, said Miss Donovan.

A number of punches were then thrown by the defendants resulting in injuries to the victims.

The court heard that the defendants had no previous convictions and were serving army officers living at the Colchester barracks.

Benedict Peers, for Girling, said his client had been in the army for seven years and had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He had been drinking on the night in question and had been in a low mood after ending his relationship with a long term partner.

“He realises he has let himself and his regiment down,” said Mr Peers.

Mr Peers said the defendants would be allowed to stay in the army if they were given suspended prison sentences and not more than 100 hours unpaid work.

Steven Dyble, for King, said his client had a promising career in the army and described what happened as an "evening of madness".