​Deadly SAS march in scorching heat went ahead to ‘avoid paperwork,’ inquest hears

Reuters / Andy Clark
A training exercise in which three highly fit special forces recruits died from overheating went ahead in dangerously high temperatures because canceling it would have meant a lot of paperwork, one casualty’s mother told an inquest.

Speaking on the first day of an inquest into the deaths, Mary Roberts, mother of reservist paratrooper Craig Roberts, who died July 2013, said when she asked an officer why the march, known in the military as a “tab,” went ahead she was told: “There would be too much paperwork to postpone it.

We were so angry at that … we were being told the march had not been cancelled to save paperwork.

L/Cpl’s Craig Roberts, 24, and L/Cpl Edward Maher and Cpl James Dunsby, both 31, died in July 2013 after taking part in a long distance march over the rugged Brecon Beacons, which was carried out in soaring summer temperatures which hit highs of 27C (80.6F).

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They were reported to have been carrying bergens (military packs) weighing up to 49 pounds, not including water.

In 2014, a pre-inquest hearing said that the soldier died from “overheating.

The current inquest, which is expected to last four weeks, was delayed while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) deliberated on whether criminal charges would be necessary.

It was decided that no such charges will be brought because the “evidence available does not meet the required legal standard for prosecution.

In a statement, senior coroner Louise Hunt said: “It's important this inquest is both prompt, effective and independent and involves the families.

It's also important that the full facts are brought to light, culpability and discreditable conduct exposed and suspicion of deliberate wrongdoing is allayed.

RT spoke to former SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who explained the reasoning behind the unit’s infamously punishing selection process.

SAS selection is partly about finding men who will complete arduous tasks on their own without supervision.

The hill phase (the first phase of selection) is designed to select men who can complete physically tough test marches in harsh conditions on their own.

Each candidate is responsible for carrying enough food and water to finish each test. If they choose to carry less to lighten the load that is their choice.

There are plenty of streams and lakes in that part of the Brecon Beacons, there are no excuses for running out of water.

Allowances are made for extreme weather. Time is added on, in effect allowing candidates to go at a slower pace.”

"Also a candidate can voluntarily withdraw (VW) at any time during selection," he added.

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As the case opened on Monday, it was reported that a trainee Royal Marine had collapsed and died during the corps’ arduous “30-miler” test.

The trainee, who was based at the Commando Training Centre (CTC) in Lympstone, Devon, was taking part in the 30 mile march – the last test before recruits graduate as Commandos and receive the Green Beret.

The endurance march, or “yomp” in Royal Marines parlance, is meant to be completed in under 8 hours while carrying at least 32 pounds of equipment.

The recruit has not been named and the cause of death is yet to be established.