23 2 mins 9 yrs


I read an account of the tragic death of two Territorial Army soldiers who were ordered on a march in the Brecon Beacons area of South Wales; and then I read it again, or at least part of it. The part I read again with growing incredulity was:-

‘One of the soldiers made a compassionate plea for some drinking water for his colleague,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it occurred to us that fatalities were going to result.

‘But it certainly was slightly odd that the two soldiers in particular had bunched together and were clearly in distress. That caused a little bit of alarm among us.

‘But it was a military exercise and you do expect, I suppose, that they are under duress and discomfort.’

Mr Capstick said one soldier was ‘upset’ and asked for water for his colleague rather than himself.

When the hikers told them their own supplies were limited, the soldiers said they would look for water in a stream marked on their map. ‘It must have taken quite a lot for the soldier to ask some civilian hikers for help,’ added Mr Capstick.

Now the question is; Should the ‘walkers’ be classified as ‘Priests’, or ‘Levites’?

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23 thoughts on “..and they passed by on the other side of the road.

  1. I dare not put down my real thoughts about these ” hikers ” , suffice it to say that they should be publicly identifed and their photos and details published so that they be vified .

  2. Sounds like the squaddies were doing the Fan Dance, a brutal fitness test in SAS selection. How tough? Only one in ten pass, and that’s for full-time soldiers, not reservists like these fellas.

    Still, when you’re out on the hill you help others. You do what you can. The Brecon Beacons Mountain Rescue Team is only a few miles away. Put a call in and they’ll be there pretty quickly.

  3. This story is a bit bizarre.

    The soldiers were apparently on an SAS training course.

    The max. temperature on the day was no more than 30 degrees, not really as hot as the conditions they would likely encounter in real situations, apart from in Northern Ireland perhaps.
    They, or some of them at least, had also done a course of desert combat training in Texas, where it must have been much hotter.

    According to the BBC, extra water was provided for them. This certainly looks like bad organisation, and that the soldiers dared one notch above their motto that day.

    A report in the Lancet has said that such training exercises are “not only irrelevant but also foolhardy and irresponsible”.

    Another SAS solider died in January, when it was too cold.

  4. The things is, it’s a timed route march with long ascents with an up and over of a steep mountain, and they do it twice, there and back. They do it with full kit, full pack and rifle and (probably) not alot of water, because water is heavy.

    You can’t stop, you can’t have a breather, you can’t ventilate and cool off, because the bar is set very high.

    If there was no wind on a 30 degree day then they all would have suffered. Half of the route is sheltered on the leeward side of a ridge, so any breeze would have been blocked anyway.

  5. Soldiers occasionally get killed in military Manoeuvres. This is just another similar causualty.

    Having said that, I’d like to think in that position I would have been able to spare at least some water for someone in so obvious a state of distress.

  6. Six men were choppered out, one is still in hospital. No doubt all the candidates really suffered.

  7. It is true that soldiers get killed in training. I recall the reading the anguish during WWII of those who knew that even training paratroopers to jump would result in fatalities. I would think that all precautions be taken, even in rigorous training exercises by the military itself as the soldiers welfare are their responsibility. I’d also hope that even exercises intended to weed out some participants would have sufficient safeguards.

    Sad photographs of one of the young men involved.

  8. The training must be hard, the idea of course being that this will make for a better soldier, a soldier more likely to prevail, and to survive under combat conditions. You want to push the envelope. ” A gallon of sweat saves a pint of blood ” as the man said.

    But I’m not able to say if this particular training makes any sense. Doesn’t necessarily look like it.

  9. It wasn’t so much training, it was more selection.

    You have to be extremely fit to be in the SAS. Granted, you have to be very fit to be in any special forces, but it’s guaranteed to be tested on SAS missions.

    Chief among its roles is deep reconaissance. Jumping out of choppers is very exciting, but it’s more typical for SAS units to exist for days and weeks, without support, in hostile territory.

    It’s an elite fighting regiment, but often they’d rather not fight because that means they’ve been rumbled. An SAS unit in Bosnia tabbed 40 miles through the night and set up an observation post on a mountain over a farm. This was to report on the movements of a Serb General. They were in the hole for a week, got the info they wanted, then did the 40 miles back out again. They did all that with everything they needed for a week on their backs.

    This is why the Fan Dance, which is the first day of selection, is so gruelling. Ninety per cent of candidates miss the cut. It means only the very fittest remain as candidates.

  10. Not now. I very nearly signed up once, but that was a long time ago.

    I have done that Fan Dance route a few times, but my attempt takes alot longer and has a few fag breaks.

  11. This issue should be seen in the context of a programme on BBC’s Panorama, “Broken by Battle” You can watch it here..

    (Yanks might find some scenes either upsetting or unbelievable)

    May I make some points?
    1) British governments have always cynically exploited the military, turning decent young men into fighting “robots” usually to achieve political objectives.

    2) Governments bend them, mould them and then abandon them when they are broken. It is only public opinion that shames them into doing something for the broken in body and mind.

    3) Young men wanting to become SAS elite troops should be praised for wanting to be the best, and commended even if they fail in the attempt. The system has to accept that some lads just won’t make it, and the selection process should monitor their minds and bodies much more closely.

    4) Politicians have no right to send young men into cynical and unwinnable wars, without proper public and political debate.
    If you haven’t seen the programme Broken by Battle, please watch it. It will make your blood boil.

    Broadband is now fixed. Ready to rumble.

  12. British governments have always cynically exploited the military, turning decent young men into fighting “robots” usually to achieve political objectives.

    All govs have. That’s the precise reason why the military exists.

  13. ” All govs have. That’s the precise reason why the military exists.”

    I think there is such a thing as a just war, as in WW2 for example. It goes back to the issue of “Is my country and the values it stands for worth defending?

    In this case the lad who stopped and tried to get water for his comrade was displaying those values. Interestingly I think, the men who fought in the two world wars were “more humane and dignified” because they came from ordinary lives and occupations. My father for example was often in trouble for displaying “silent contempt” when an officer gave a stupid order. I have the same attitude. I accept the need of hierarchy, but it doesn’t make them omniescent.
    The problem with modern professional military forces is that they take mainly young impressionable men and play on their natural desires to “prove themselves”. That is cynical. That is exploitation.

  14. I think there is such a thing as a just war

    Of course there is but all wars, just or unjust, are fought to obtain political or economic objectives and are the primary reason for the existence of the military.

  15. ” and are the primary reason for the existence of the military. ”
    I agree, but There is an increasing disconnect in that our governments send our men to war without consultation with the people. That’s what Tony Blair did, and Cameron carried on with the evil nonsense in Afghanistan.

  16. I can’t disagree with your point above Agi but I just wanted to make the case that the military exist as a primary tool to do gov’s violent bidding.

  17. Huh!
    I thought we might have squeezed just a little disagreement out of that one, old chap. A few heated exchanges perhaps?
    How are things in Espana?
    I see you’re still providing visitors with a warm friendly welcome..

    I have some friends and family who are keen on doing the El Camino after me lending them “The Way”.
    I am quite annoyed as my doctor is not too happy about me attempting it.
    Says it would do nothing for international relations, and the body would have to be returned to the UK…

  18. This story has played over and over in my head. Heat stroke is horrible and its dangers not recognised. It was crazy to have this exercise in this heat without proper monitoring. If our servicemen are to be deployed in heat, then they should be rigorously tested for heat tolerance with exercise equipment to simulate realistic conditions where they can be monitored and where instant recovery procedures can be put into action. Anyone who has not sufficient heat tolerance for the terrain shouldn’t be sent there.

    On a H&S course I was on the trainer poo poohed the notion that it was possible to get heat stroke in the office. I get heat exhaustion regularly. I have also had heatstroke a few times when I had no idea how serious it was. Once I got to the office disorientated and starting to lose control of my speech. It was air con’d and with lots of water I cooled down to a safe level. One of my colleagues said that I should look up the symptoms of heat stroke. I did and was shocked as they are disorientation and slurring speech. “At this stage you are in a medical emergency”. I thought that it was merely horrible. I didn’t know it was life threatening. Since then I have taken more care. I don’t leave the house if the forecast is 30 or over. I only went to important meetings if the temp was 28 to 30. Last year, the office air con wasn’t working and I started to feel uncomfortable. I generally get a lot of notice of heat stroke and so take preventative steps. This crept up on me with little notice. One moment I was uncomfortable. The next moment I was trying to say something to someone and couldn’t. Luckily the Occupational Health Unit was in our building and I got myself up there.

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