Lance Corporals Edward Maher and Craig Roberts were pronounced dead in a drill on Brecon Beacons after suffering heatstroke in July 2013. Corporal James Dunsby later died in hospital after he also collapsed on the Welsh mountain range in near 30C temperatures.
Two other soldiers suffered non-fatal heat illnesses. Two instructors, known only as 1A and 1B, have appeared at the Court Martial Centre in Bulford, where they both deny “negligently performing a duty” by failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of candidates taking part in the exercises.
Prosecuting, Louis Mably QC told the court martial that the men, then an Army captain and Warrant Officer, had “lost control” of the exercise in which soldiers marched for 16 miles.
Thirty-seven reservists and 41 regular troops took part in the exercise, which was part of the aptitude phase for selection of an elite military unit.
Soldiers were expected to cover almost 30km or 18.5 miles within a target time of eight hours 45 minutes while carrying a bergen and a backpack, weighing between 22 and 27kg, as well as a dummy rifle.
Those who voluntarily withdrew from the march, or were withdrawn on medical grounds faced being failed, which provided an incentive to “keep on going”, Mr Mably said.
Temperatures reached 26.3C from midday on the day of the march and had risen to 28.3C by 4pm. Mr Mably said the first casualty to be struck by a heat-related illness took place at about 11am.
L/Cpl Roberts passed a drill at the penultimate check point but was later found unconscious less than a mile from the finish by another candidate. His “man down” alarm was activated at 3.36pm, with emergency services arriving about an hour later.
L/Cpl Roberts was pronounced dead at 5.10pm, with his cause of death later found to be hypothermia.
The court heard L/Cpl Maher was identified as a “slow-moving candidate” at 4.10pm, having reached the penultimate check point at 1.22pm.
Mr Mably said L/Cpl Maher’s tracker revealed he had not moved “very far at all” between leaving the check point and being found.
“It was two hours and 38 minutes since he had left the check point at 1.22pm,” he said. L/Cpl Maher was discovered at 4.55pm.
“He was sitting upright with his Bergen on, with a half full bottle of water in one hand and a half eaten chocolate bar in the other,” Mr Mably said.
A post-mortem examination ruled his death was caused as a result of the effects of hyperthermia. At 4.10pm, Cpl Dunsby was noticed to be static, having left his penultimate check point at 2.51pm.
He was found unconscious at 4.52pm and an ambulance arrived at the scene at 5.18pm. Cpl Dunsby died in hospital on July 30, 17 days after the drill. “It is clear that something went terribly wrong,” Mr Mably said.
“The defendants lost control of events and ended up in a position where they couldn’t account for a number of candidates.” The court martial continues.
With many thanks to: The Telegraph for the original story