MoD under pressure to explain deaths of army reservists in SAS test

Two men who died during hot-weather training on the Brecon Beacons were experienced soldiers who had seen active service

Steven Morris

Alexandra Topping

The Ministry of Defence was coming under increasing pressure on Monday to explain how two army reservists died in searing temperatures during an SAS test as it emerged that both were experienced soldiers who had seen active service abroad in the harshest of conditions.

One of the men who died, apparently after suffering heat stroke on the Brecon Beacons in south Wales, was named as 24-year-old maths teacher Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, who is believed to have served in Afghanistan.

The second man’s family has asked that he not be named yet but it is understood he had served in the army for nearly a decade before joining the Territorial Army and had done tours of duty in Afghanistan.

That both were experienced men who had served in hot climates rather than callow recruits makes it more of a puzzle that they and four others were so badly affected as the temperature soared to 30C (86F).

It also focuses attention on the government’s plans to make greater use of part-time reservist soldiers as the regular army shrinks because of budget cuts.

Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP and a former member of the Parachute Regiment who took part in training on the Beacons during his military career, called for the MoD to review its guidance on training in harsh conditions.

He said: “I robustly defend the right of the army to conduct the most rigorous training. We have got to have people who are used to facing adversity. Having said that, something has gone wrong. We need to get to the bottom of it.”

Jarvis said the shift towards more reliance on reservists was not without risks. “Why is this being done? It is about money, and it is about doing defence on the cheap rather than delivering improved capability.”

Friends of Lance Corporal Roberts, who was known as CJ, said he was “extremely dedicated” to serving his country. One, who asked not to be named, said: “CJ loved being in the TA and really wanted to go as far as he could.

“He was the salt of the earth and would have a go at anything. It is devastating to think he died like that.”

Originally from north Wales, Roberts studied banking and finance at Leicester University before becoming a maths teacher at Trinity comprehensive school in Lewisham, south-east London.

One 16-year-old student said: “It brought tears to my eyes when I heard he died. Mr Roberts was one of the best teachers ever.”

Roberts’s family was being comforted by friends and military staff in north Wales. His father, Kelvin, said: “We are being given the support of the military and anything we want to say will come through them.”

His son was a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment and is believed to have served as a reservist in Afghanistan. He had undertaken hot weather training in Texas. Like many reservist soldiers he wanted …read more  

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