The commander of Britain’s SAS troops in Afghanistan has resigned in disgust, accusing the Government of “gross negligence” over the deaths of four of his soldiers.
By Thomas Harding
Major Sebastian Morley claims that Whitehall officials and military commanders repeatedly ignored his warnings that people would be killed if they continued to allow troops to be transported in the vulnerable Snatch Land Rovers.
As a result, he says Cpl Sarah Bryant – the first female soldier to die in Afghanistan – and three male colleagues, the SAS soldiers, Cpl Sean Reeve, L/Cpl Richard Larkin and Paul Stout were killed needlessly.
All four died when their lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover split apart after hitting a landmine in Helmand province in June.
In his resignation letter, Major Morley, the commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, said “chronic underinvestment” in equipment by the Ministry of Defence was to blame for their deaths.
The Old Etonian officer, a cousin to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is understood to have described the MoD’s failure to buy better equipment as “cavalier at best, criminal at worst”. The resignation of Major Morley, the grandson of the newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook, follows those of Col Stuart Tootal, Brig Ed Butler and a commanding officer of 22 SAS.
“We highlighted this issue saying people are going to die and now they have died,” said a soldier who served with Major Morley. “Our commanding officer and RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) tried everything in their power to stop us using Snatch. The point of failure here lies squarely with the MoD.
“The boys nicknamed Snatch the mobile coffin.”
The resignation of Major Morley will reignite the debate on the standard of equipment for troops, with many front line soldiers believing that their lives are being put at risk.
In recent weeks the MoD has been criticised by coroners who said the right equipment could have saved lives.
The frailties of Snatch Land Rovers have been responsible for 34 British fatalities – or one in eight of the total killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are only now being replaced.
The reservists of 23 SAS were first asked to send a squadron of about 100 men to Helmand in Afghanistan because the regular soldiers of 22 SAS were severely stretched in Iraq. Their mission was to supervise elite elements of the Afghan police.