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SAS selection tests 'to be changed' after Brecon Beacons deaths

Published 08/08/2015

Lance Corporal Edward Maher collapsed during an SAS training exercise (Ministry of Defence/PA).
Lance Corporal Edward Maher collapsed during an SAS training exercise (Ministry of Defence/PA).

Selection tests taken by recruits hoping to join the SAS are to be changed to protect them from dangers such as extreme temperatures, it has been reported.

It comes less than a month after a coroner ruled that neglect played a part in the deaths of three Army reservists who collapsed during a 16-mile SAS test march.

The changes are understood to include a weather test which could lead to the selection week being postponed if the weather is too hot, cold or humid, according to The Times newspaper.

It reported that practice sessions will be introduced to enable reservists to become accustomed to the terrain and the paper also said there would be more water stations along routes through the Brecon Beacons.

The Times said the changes will apply to the aptitude test week for the regular and the reserve SAS from next year.

Some fear this is a lowering of standards and a former SAS officer told the newspaper that there is a feeling this could make selection "softer and easier".

Last month, senior Birmingham coroner Louise Hunt said three soldiers would have survived if Ministry of Defence regulations on heat illness had been followed.

Lance Corporals Edward Maher and Craig Roberts were pronounced dead on the Brecon Beacons after suffering heatstroke in July 2013.

Corporal James Dunsby died at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital from multiple organ failure more than two weeks later.

Describing parts of the planning and conduct of the special forces march as inadequate or not fit for purpose, the coroner said inadequate supplies of water also contributed to one of the deaths.

The Army said it was "truly sorry" after being criticised by the coroner for the catalogue of blunders which led to the three deaths.

Contacted about the reported changes, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it does not comment on the special forces.

Professor George Havenith, an expert in heat-related illnesses who gave evidence at the inquest, said the main reason the tragedy occurred was that existing MoD guidelines had not been followed.

"The MoD has quite good guidelines in place on what to do on these especially hot days," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"The main concern in this case is that these guidelines were not followed because the people on the ground organising the exercise were not aware of the rules and regulations and what to do.

"If they had known the regulations set up by the MoD themselves they would not have had this issue with three people dying in one exercise."

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