TWO BRITISH soldiers have died and a third is in hospital after they were taken ill during a training exercise in soaring temperatures in Wales. The men were training in the Brecon Beacons in Powys, on Saturday, as temperatures reached 30C.
Military sources said the high temperatures may have caused the deaths in some of Wales’s most rugged terrain. Saturday was the hottest day of the year in Wales.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and police said they were investigating the incidents, which happened near the Storey Arms Centre for outdoor education.
It is understood live ammunition was not involved. Instead it is thought the investigation will focus on the weather conditions and the nature of the training exercise.
An MoD spokesman said the identities of the men had not yet been released but that next of kin had been informed.
The spokesman added: “The MoD can confirm that it is working with Dyfed Powys Police to investigate an incident during a training exercise on the Brecon Beacons on Saturday, in which two members of military personnel died.”
A source said: “It is a case of the people succumbing to being affected by the training that they were doing.”
Thirty volunteers drawn from all four of South Wales’s mountain rescue teams were called out to assist when the two servicemen died. The Central Beacons, Brecon, Western Beacons and Abergavenny-based Longtown mountain rescue teams joined the operation near Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in south Wales.
Mark Moran, from Central Beacons MRT, said: “We would like to pay tribute to all our members who took part in [the] rescue operation. They are all volunteers, who are highly trained and dedicated.
“We were working alongside military personnel, who remained extremely calm and professional during this tragic incident. Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.”
Temperatures remained high across the UK yesterday, with the warm weather expected to continue this week.
The heat affected revellers at this year’s T in the Park festival, where 1,035 people sought medical treatment for heat-related problems and sunburn.
The Brecon Beacons is one of several locations the military uses for training. The Special Air Service, based at nearby Hereford, is known to use the area for tough courses used to select new members for the special forces. Its rugged terrain helps prepare soldiers physically and mentally for warfare, and puts their logistics skills to the test.
Major Alan Davies, who was involved in contingency planning during the first Gulf war, said the Beacons was one the most challenging terrains military personnel could encounter.
“On one end of the spectrum you have cadets being taken for mountain walking and at the other, the SAS use it,” he said.
He added that the three men might have been carrying heavy equipment and working to a deadline, which meant they would have been pushing themselves hard.
Stuart Crawford, a former lieutenant colonel in the Royal Tank Regiment, who trained on the Brecon Beacons, said: “It is excellent for endurance training. We walked 65km in 36 hours with more than 100lb packs on our backs.”
Mr Crawford, who runs a consultancy firm in Edinburgh specialising in security issues, added that soldiers training there would have probably set off carrying two litres of water.
David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth and a former member of the Territorial Army, said: “Nobody should jump to any conclusions here about what may have caused this, but we all know that, for example, people who take part in marathons run a small risk of dying of heat stroke, and the British Army does train its soldiers very, very hard indeed.
“It is arduous training at any level, and sometimes things tragically go wrong.”
News of the deaths has been met with shock in Brecon, which is home to the Infantry Battle School. The town’s mayor, Matthew Dorrance, said: “It’s incredibly sad for the friends and family of the people who have lost their lives.”