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Soldier Shot Dead During Live Firing Exercise

A soldier has died after being shot at a military training area in Northumberland, police have said.

The male soldier, serving with the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was shot on the military ranges in Otterburn during a live firing exercise at about 23:15 BST on Monday. Northumbria Police said the soldier sustained a “serious head wound” and was pronounced dead at the scene. He has not been identified by the Ministry of Defence.

An MOD spokesman said the Defence Safety Authority was investigating. It said there were no details on whether any other personnel were involved.

Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning said: “My thoughts are with the soldier’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time. “The safety of our personnel is our absolute priority and while deaths in training don’t happen often, any death is a tragedy. “As well as a police investigation, MOD accident investigators are looking into the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident.”

A police cordon is in place at the training area and the soldier’s next-of-kin have been informed, police say. The force said no arrests had been made.

Between January 2000 and 20 February 2016, 135 UK armed forces personnel died while on training or exercise. Eleven of those 135 deaths occurred during a live fire exercise.

The police are now investigating and they need to work out if anything is suspicious, if any crime has been committed. I think it’s probably unlikely. These are live fire exercises, in other words real ammunition is being used. I understand it was just rifles at the time; it wasn’t mortars or artillery involved in this particular exercise. There are strict controls in place, and there are marshals involved to supervise the safety. Also, there are strict lines of fire where the live fire goes, to ensure that those taking part are not hurt. But clearly something went wrong in this incident.

This wasn’t basic training, this was someone who was already trained and was going through a refresher. If the police don’t find anything suspicious then the army will have their own investigation into what went wrong.

Otterburn Training Area, set up by former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, is the second largest live firing range in the country and has been used for military training since 1911.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland marked the 10th anniversary of its creation with a parade in Edinburgh in April. The creation of the regiment in 2006 was controversial as it meant that names of famous regiments, such as the Royal Scots and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, would disappear.