I can’t help but feel upset whenever I see a story on the news about one of our brave soldiers who has lost their life during combat, even though it’s a risk that all service personnel sign up to.
Whenever it’s a story about a death in training, however, it makes me feel angry too. Soldiers who don’t even get to do what they have trained for because something has gone wrong.
A statistic that sends shivers down my spine every time I read it is that a soldier dies every six weeks during training. Recently, the tragic story of Megan Park touched the hearts of the nation. Earlier this month, the 21-year-old army recruit died while undergoing initial training at Pirbright barracks in Surrey.
An investigation into Megan’s death is ongoing and our thoughts go out to her loved ones. Whatever the cause of her death, the story still hits home how many of our service personnel lose their lives during training.
Shocking Scale of Military Training Deaths
The shocking statistic that reveals a UK military training fatality every six weeks was in response to a Freedom of Information request earlier this year.
The response declared that 125 UK armed forces personnel have died during training since 2000. The Army had most fatalities during this period, 86, whilst the Navy had 22. In the RAF, 17 personnel died during this period.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led British troops in Afghanistan, said earlier this year that training for war needs to be “challenging and sometimes dangerous.” Whilst I appreciate that military training needs to be tough in order to be as realistic as possible, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) needs to ensure that safety guidelines are adhered to.
If they were, then maybe most military training injuries could be avoided.
Military Training Safety Guidelines Must be Taken Seriously
If the same rate of fatalities were to occur in any other industry, there would be national outrage.
It would be an appalling situation if senior MoD officers were ignorant of the existence of training safety guidelines, or even worse if they simply choose not to follow them.
In July, the Army apologised after being severely criticised by a coroner during the Brecon Beacons inquest into the deaths of three reservists on a selection test march. The coroner held that the three men died as a result of a catalogue of failures on behalf of the Army.
The MoD can be held liable for any injuries sustained by a member of the British armed forces during a UK-based training exercise, just like any other employer can be liable for employee accidents at work. If training safety guidelines are not adhered to, then there are likely to be more personal injury claims brought by service personnel against the MoD, as well as more stories in the media highlighting the seriousness of military training safety.
Zoe Sutton is a Senior Associate Lawyer specialising in military accident claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for armed forces personnel injured during military service.
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