Most of army’s Warriors in Afghanistan have still not had safety upgrade

Coroner asks for update from army after inquest on six soldiers killed when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up

Two thirds of the army’s Warrior armoured vehicles in Afghanistan still have not had crucial safety improvements made to them 18 months after six British soldiers were killed when theirs was turned into a fireball by a huge bomb, it has emerged.

The Warriors, one of the workhorses of the British army, are to be fitted with a upgraded fuel tank not so liable to burst but so far only eight have undergone the fix with another 21 still waiting for the work to be carried out.

An inquest on the six men who were killed in the biggest single loss of British life to enemy attack since the allied invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has heard that troops have faith in the vehicle. Experts said the bomb that hit the men would have overwhelmed any vehicle the army has in theatre.

The Oxfordshire coroner, Darren Salter, said he was confident that significant steps were being taken to improve the Warriors, which also include adding extra armour, easier ways of getting out in an emergency and better firefighting equipment. But he said he would be asking the army for an update on the work being carried out.

He also stopped short of criticising the decision to send the Warrior out on the fatal patrol as night fell. “I am not going to second-guess decisions of commanders. These are experienced commanders who took decisions on the ground, balancing the risks and exercising judgments,” he said.

Speaking afterwards, Natalie Taylor, the mother of one of the soldiers who died, Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, hit out at the government. “To lose your child is as painful as losing your own life,” she said. “Our servicemen and women will continue to die as long as politicians who rule our lives value money more than the lives of our sons and daughters.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said safety features were continually worked on but making changes took time. She said there was always a “balance” to be struck between adding safety features to vehicles and ensuring they could still be used effectively.

The tragedy in March last year took the toll of British dead past the 400-mark and focused attention both on the reason UK troops were in Afghanistan and whether the equipment they had was good enough.

Hartley was in the vehicle along with Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, and Privates Anthony Frampton, 20, Daniel Wade, 20, Christopher Kershaw, 19, and Daniel Wilford, 21.

Vivid accounts from troops who were in a second Warrior were given to the inquest. Sergeant Michael Watts said they had been given a few minutes to get ready to leave on the patrol. He said this was a “bit of a fast ball”. A few minutes into the patrol he heard a huge explosion. “I thought ‘What the fuck is that?’,” Watts said in a witness statement read to the court.

A colleague told him the …read more    

Group Captain Ian Madelin obituary

My father Ian Madelin’s career in the RAF took him all over the world: from commanding a squadron in Cyprus to teaching at the Air War College at Maxwell air force base in Montgomery, Alabama; from working on the Harrier jump jet programme to a role at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Belgium. He rose to the rank of group captain.

Ian, who has died aged 82, ended his tour of duty in 1986 as air attache at the British embassy in Rome – a post he relished, given that its location allowed further scope for his lifelong appreciation of art.

He was born in Slough, Berkshire. His childhood was marked by the death of his father, Edward, when he was six, leaving his mother, Ethel, in poverty with three young children to support. Ian and his older brother, Ben, went to Lord Wandsworth college, a boarding school in Hook, Hampshire, through its foundation to educate children who have lost one or both parents. There they fielded the hardworking character inherited from their mother and their father’s fierce intelligence.

Ian was conscripted on leaving school, just after the second world war, and when his compulsory service was over he re-enlisted and went to the US to train as an RAF pilot.

In 1959, he met and married Elvira, a young Swiss au pair no doubt swept off her feet by the dashing pilot, and they had three children – me, John and James. The marriage ended in divorce.

Too full of energy to retire, from 1989 he worked as head of the air historical branch of the civil service before finding his final billet in 1998 as director of studies at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, while also studying for an MA in classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and learning to play the piano.

Retirement in 2001 brought a new lease of life. He fell in love again, and found much happiness with his partner, Geraldine. They travelled the world together and shared many happy days in Tuscany. He touched the lives of many in recent years – from schoolchildren with reading difficulties, whom he tutored, to the Friends of St Clement Danes Council.

His many friends around the world will recall his dry sense of humour and his charm. Ian was a real gent.

Geraldine survives him, along with his sister, Yvonne, his children, and four grandchildren.

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Six British soldiers died in fireball on patrol in Afghanistan, inquest hears

Armoured vehicle blast from IED in Helmand caused UK forces’ biggest single loss of life for seven years

Six soldiers were killed when their Warrior armoured vehicle was turned into a “fireball” by a huge roadside bomb as they patrolled in Afghanistan, an inquest has been told.

Colleagues who rushed to help the men described hearing ammunition ignite in the Warrior after the massive explosion and bullets ricocheting inside the vehicle.

The incident in March last year remains the biggest single loss of life for British forces since an RAF Nimrod crash in Afghanistan killed 14 people seven years ago.

The deaths of the six men took the toll of British deaths in Afghanistan past 400, and refocused attention on the reason for British troops being in the country.

It happened at a time when the threat of attack from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the area was thought low, the inquest in Oxford was told.

The hearing was also told that one of the soldiers who died, 19-year-old Christopher Kershaw, was on board only because he had volunteered at the last minute to take a colleague’s place.

Kershaw died alongside Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, and Privates Anthony Frampton, 20, Daniel Wade, 20, and Daniel Wilford, 21, during the incident in Helmand province on 6 March 2012.

The inquest heard it was most likely that all the men were either killed or knocked unconscious by the huge blast, and unaware of what happened afterwards.

Known by the call-sign K12, the Warrior was patrolling with another vehicle when it was hit by an IED in Helmand. The force of the explosion turned it upside down and blew off its gun turret. Ammunition on board the vehicle ignited, causing a fierce fire.

The inquest on Wednesday heard that the patrol had been scheduled to leave earlier that day but was delayed because of a sandstorm. It eventually left just after 6.30pm, and was blown up a few minutes later.

Soldiers in a second Warrior vehicle, given the call-sign K13, reported hearing an explosion then seeing a fireball.

In a statement read to the court, Private Luke Stones described how Kershaw, who was driving the Warrior, had volunteered to take the place of another soldier on the patrol.

“Private Butler would have been the driver of K12 but he was returning from the shower and as a result Pte Kershaw offered to take his place,” he said.

Stones, who was the gunner in the second Warrior, said he heard a large explosion just five minutes after leaving the base. “Around 20 metres to my front was a large fireball, which had flames reaching around it,” he said. “I stood staring at the fireball, not really understanding what I was looking at.”

The blast had blown the armoured vehicle on to its side, and blew its gun turret off, the inquest heard.

As they cleared a safe path to the Warrior and tried to put the blaze out, colleagues from the second vehicle described hearing ammunition ignite and ricochet inside …read more  

Vernon Coaker to visit yards building Trident's replacement submarines

Shadow defence secretary to show Labour remains committed to new nuclear deterrent with visit to Barrow’s Vanguard site

The new shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker will display his personal commitment to Labour retaining an independent nuclear deterrent on Wednesday when he visits the yards building the Vanguard replacement submarines that will be the successors to the current Trident programme.

Coaker replaced Jim Murphy in the shadow cabinet reshuffle last week and will travel to Barrow to show that Labour remains committed to a new nuclear deterrent.

In advance Coaker said: “In an uncertain and unpredictable world in which other nations possess nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation remains a deep concern, Labour believes it is right that the United Kingdom retains the minimum credible independent nuclear deterrent.

“We will continue to look at ways in which the Successor programme can be delivered efficiently, through the strategic defence and security and zero based spending reviews we have pledged to conduct under a Labour government.”

The local Labour MP John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said “Vernon’s decision to come here first signals the strength of Labour’s support for the UK’s submarine programme and the value a future Labour government will place in the extraordinary manufacturing expertise it sustains in Furness and across the country. “

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