Thursday 14 November 2019

Hiker saw soldier in distress and pleading for water during SAS training exercise in which two died

Heather Saul

A hiker described witnessing a distressed soldier making a "compassionate plea" for water for his colleague on the Brecon Beacons.

Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and another soldier who has not been named died during a military exercise in the Brecon Beacons on Saturday. A third soldier was also rushed to hospital needing treatment as temperatures soared to 29.5C.

David Capstick told Channel 4 News he was walking through the mountain range on Saturday when he was passed by a string of soldiers moving in the opposite direction at five and ten minute intervals.

“We then came across two soldiers who had clearly broken that intended mode of operation and were proceeding slowly together, and one of the soldiers made a compassionate plea for some drinking water for his colleague,” he said.

He said the second soldier “did seem to be in distress”.

“He was upset. The other soldier was trying to make the best of the situation, and asked if we could spare any water for his colleague, not for himself.

“It must have taken quite a lot for the soldier to ask some civilian hikers for help.

“We ourselves had only a limited amount of water and we were struggling with the weight of our own packs. The weight of the Army packs was clearly twice the weight of our own packs and it was very hard to see how they did end up in a position where they had run out of water.

“The two soldiers then proceeded and the one that was helping the weaker one was telling us it was OK, they would get water at the stream further ahead which was marked on the map. Well, we know from our own experience that those streams were no more than a line of arid rocks."

Mr Capstick said he did not see any signs to suggest that the troops were being supervised or monitored, but said he and his companions did not suspect the soldiers they had seen might die.

“I don't think it occurred to us that fatalities were going to result.

"It was a military exercise and you do expect, I suppose, that they are under duress and discomfort. It was debilitating conditions carrying the 15kg (33lb) that we had.”

L/Cpl Roberts was a University of Leicester Economics graduate and had served as a reservist in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had also completed training missions with the American National Guard in Texas and was a member of the 3Battilion Royal Anglican Regiment.

The MoD has said there are no plans to change “routine exercises” in the rugged territory in light of the incident but the deaths have led to question marks over whether the rigorous SAS training should have continued in such extreme temperatures.

"Routine" training involves an intensive 40 mile hike over the Brecon Beacons.

In a statement issued through the Ministry of Defence today, Mr Roberts's father Kelvin paid tribute to his son. He said: "We are all devastated at the loss of our beloved Craig; this has left a massive hole in all our lives."

Mr Roberts said his son, who was due to start a new job in the Education Secretary's office, died pursuing his dream.

"We wholeheartedly supported Craig in his military endeavours and it gives us some comfort, though great sadness, that he died in the pursuit of his dream," he said.

"Next month Craig was due to start a new post in the office of the Secretary of State for Education and we were all very proud of him."

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