The Government was criticised today for allowing the sailors held captive in Iran to sell their stories, amid claims that they are being used as "pawns" in a propaganda battle.
Tory MPs attacked the move as a new low of Labour spin, while one of the 15 captives admitted even he found the situation "a little unsavoury".
The ongoing criticism came as two of the sailors revealed horrific details of their ordeal in interviews with national newspapers.
Leading Seaman Faye Turney’s story appeared in The Sun, in which she said she believed her captors had measured her for a coffin and planned to kill her.
Media sources said the 25-year-old had turned down a #100,000 payout from another media outlet to accept a significantly lower figure from the paper, along with the ITV programme Tonight With Trevor McDonald, on which she will appear tonight.
The youngest captive, Arthur Batchelor, sold his account to the Daily Mirror, and described how guards had mocked him, calling him "Mr Bean", and that he had he cried himself to sleep at night.
Military figures, Tory MPs and even the Sun’s former editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, condemned the Ministry of Defence’s decision to allow payment for stories about the 13-day ordeal.
Tory former defence secretary Lord Heseltine said he was "profoundly shocked" and suggested that other forces personnel would be equally upset.
He told the BBC 4 Today programme: "What an extraordinary story that people who every day take calculated risks with their lives are expected to earn relatively small sums of money whilst people who get themselves taken hostage, in circumstances which are worth exploring, can make a killing.
"I have never heard anything so appalling."
He demanded publication of the advice of military top brass before the taking of a decision that he warned could have serious implications for future coverage.
"Suppose there is some sort of military confrontation which has had mixed results. Are the press going to interview the troops on the ground in order to conduct a sort of mock trial?
"Is that what’s going to face the commanders?"
Mr MacKenzie told the same programme that he would not have touched the accounts "with a barge pole" and accused the Government of a "catastrophic error".
"Curiously enough I don’t think I’d touch it with a barge pole, to be honest, I think there’s nothing but downsides for everyone connected with this," he said.
He defended the personnel themselves, saying he laid the blame "exclusively and wholly at the bloody idiots currently running the Ministry of Defence".
"My sense is that the Government... are very concerned that they have lost the propaganda battle with Iran and these 15 are simply pawns in this battle."
In future, soldiers could use the precedent to take legal action against the military if it refused them permission to publish less friendly versions of events, he warned.
"They have opened up a can of worms. It is a catastrophic error by our Secretary of State for Defence."
Major General Patrick Cordingly, who commanded the Desert Rats during the 1991 Gulf War, said it was "unfortunate" that the MoD was "using" the sailors and Marines in this way.
He told the BBC: "They are using them almost as a propaganda tool and it seems to be encouraging us to feel irritated with Iran rather than dialogue going on.
"We are just compounding the problem by the way we are dealing with it."
Maj Gen Cordingly said he had been encouraged to hear from military friends that the head of the Army had sent out an order to say he would not allow Army members to do the same.
He said: "Clearly he disapproved and was making clear this was not going to happen in his force."
One of the 15 captives told GMTV that neither he nor Royal Marine Captain Chris Air had accepted money for their stories because they wanted "to tell their side of it".
He said: "I personally find the subject (of being paid to speak about the ordeal) a bit unsavoury, but I don’t begrudge people who have been through an awful ordeal making a bit of money out of this.
"In the case of Faye Turney, she has a young daughter and the money could set her up for life."