TA Soldiers sent to Iraq after failing guns test

From last weeks Times


HUNDREDS of British soldiers served in Iraq despite failing a vital weapons test, a court martial was told yesterday.
The Territorial Army reservists were sent to the war zone even though senior officers knew they had not even met the required standard to go on a firing range, it was claimed.

One of the soldiers faces a charge of manslaughter after allegedly shooting dead an Army colleague in an accident at the Shaibah military camp near Basra, in southern Iraq. Lance-Corporal Ian Blaymire, 23, is said to have been holding an SA80 assault rifle when Sergeant John Nightingale died after being shot in the chest by a bullet fired from point blank range.

A court martial in Catterick, North Yorkshire, heard that Lance-Corporal Blaymire was one of 271 soldiers sent to Iraq despite failing a basic weapons test at the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell, Nottingham.

Sergeant-Major John Drain, a training adviser at the centre, told the court that Army regulations required reservists to be awarded a “skilled” mark in the test before they could be deployed in a war zone. In practice, however, he said that many TA personnel were deployed last year with an inadequate “average” grade, which should have disqualified them from being issued with a rifle.

The hearing was told that the Army had been under increasing pressure to mobilise troops for the Gulf. At one stage, 250 soldiers passed though the Chilwell centre in a single day.

Lance-Corporal Blaymire, from Leeds, initially failed two sections of the eight-part weapons handling test. The following day, he was given an “average” pass. Under cross examination Sergeant-Major Drain admitted that 271 reservists given an average grade “should not have gone” to Iraq. Sergeant Nightingale, 32, from Guiseley, West Yorkshire, a member of 217 Transport Squadron, died in September last year, midway though a six-month deployment.

Captain Andrew McIntyre, a full-time weapons instructor at Chilwell, earlier told the court that it had become standard procedure to pass soldiers who failed the weapons handling test.

He said that along his chain of command it was an “accepted policy” that TA soldiers who were being prepared for war should not have to meet the standard required by the Army Operational Shooting Policy. When he resumed giving evidence yesterday, however, Captain McIntyre said that he had changed his views after being summoned to a meeting with his commanding officer.

The hearing continues.

"Lance-Corporal Blaymire, from Leeds, initially failed two sections of the eight-part weapons handling test."
i have heard about this.
bad very bad
a weapons test isn't exactly rocket science. even my own, i passed with a skill.
HVM_Boy said:
"Lance-Corporal Blaymire, from Leeds, initially failed two sections of the eight-part weapons handling test."
That's what was reported :wink:

However, have they confused the WHT with the APWT?



War Hero
APWT's are not held at Chilwell, the range isn't big enough. The APWT is held at Grantham I think. During the peak of mobilisation there would have been no chance for the RTMC staff to run 250 APWT's a day.
One of my Ta soldiers when deployed via Chilwell, reported back after his tour and told me quite categorically that not only did he not pass his APWT, he didnt even attempt it, he is a poo shot! after 150 rounds trying to zero they gave up!

He deployed as top cover on the Rover's

go figure :(
No such thing as a poo shot, just a poo instructor

zeroed with 150 rounds? only adjusted his sights 6 times then?

everyone with the right motivation, instruction and effort is more than able to achieve a good pass on the APWT and a skilled pass on the WHT

theoretically the soldier passed his training tests to gain his bounty foir the last god knows how many years......[/quote]
Unfortunately not an isolated incident at Chillwell.

I know of another soldier, deployed to theatre with an SA 80, but had never even received a lesson on the weapon!!! ( with good reasons I may add but not prepared to say due to the PERSEC of the individual).

Taken out the back during WHT at Grantham and given 2 hours crammed instruction - managed to pass the WHT then onto the range and managed to hit the target - PASS!

Bottom line is that the individual was bullied by staff at Chilwell to take the weapon, despite complaining up the chain of command.

Knew this would come back to haunt the Army.
Golf_one_one said:
No such thing as a poo shot, just a poo instructor
i totally agree , in my instructors course i was told those same words ,no bad students only bad instructors
EVERYBODY is capable of passing anything, some are a little slow on the take up but they do get there in the end , all you need is time and thats seems to be something we are a bit short of
Ah, excellent! Haven't been back in ages, and the first post I read is from the artist formerly known as Vespa! How are you old son?
This guy is a L/Cpl and is, by definition, a little better than average soldier (at least he should be. I had to work my rocks off to make L/Bdr and demonstrate to all and sundry that I was better than the average squaddie!). I don't know if he was in an Infantry Regt or nor but if he was, then he must have at least been taught basic weapons handling skills? This would have emphasised 'safety at all times' or it was when I was serving. The gut is a cnut and deserves to do a long stretch (which by todays standards, should see him released after the trial due to time served on remand and good behaviour).
In response to G11

Whilst i also agree, having spent an entire weekend on the range with him post tour, and having watched him go from not only correctly zeroing his weapon but also pasing the APWT with a damn good score, i then watched him clean up in a competition shoot out of all those attending much to his own amazement and in real good drizzly shooting weather :D

The fact still remains that even the best instructor will have a damn hard job on his hands trying to get someone through a zero and an APWT in such a short time frame when, in basic the lad didnt even fire a weapon 'live' and also for the 2 years prior to his tour he only had to pass the Zero and attempt the APWT to gain his bounty ;)

Fortunately nothing bad came of it as the guy is a really committed lad who loves soldiering, however it could have all gone horribly wrong out there for him if it hadnt been for the fact that little details like only having to "attempt" it and the lack of time allocated for it in the first place seem to be common-place.

Indeed if we only pay lip service to issues like this then we might as well sack the weapons lessons and just bomb people up with a nice certificate saying they know which end to point where :D


Kit Reviewer
fivetodo said:

for the 2 years prior to his tour he only had to pass the Zero and attempt the APWT to gain his bounty ;)

Is this normal in the TA or just a local thing ?

It's an 'Annual (!) Personal Weapons TEST' FFS !

Hardly the lad's fault if he's not had adequate instruction, but he's been given money for reaching a minimum level of trg. Or not in this case.

Is it a question of the Head Shed needing a certain amount of bods to 'prove' their instrs are up to scratch ?

Arrses need kicking, and the higher up the chain of command the better !
When I deployed to the Balkans there was an intake of 120.

A guy passed a medical who couldn't even see straight. They were going to issue him a rifle until he tried to fire it - he could use the SUSAT with his eye defect.

Another bloke, when faced with a CDT, confessed he wouldn't pass it, but was told to go through the motions and was sent to theatre anyway. A proportion of the deployed troops were dragged out of theatre for failing but I never found out if he was in it.

Myself, I passed my WHT's skilled, but failed my APWT

No such thing as a poo shot, just a poo instructor
This is the only occasion in 14 years when I have failed an APWT.

Apparently we were acting like STABs and they run us up and down the range for starters. Then f***ed us about up and down the range, rushed from the ammo point to the firing point, bollocked because our groups weren't good enough, run back to the ammo point, run back to the firing point, all bollocked because a bint forgot her safety catch, grouped again, called nobs again, swag adjustments put on the SUSATs by the instructors because we were all too useless to do it ourselves, then thrown into an APWT, called useless by the staff again. You get the gist.

By this time I was seething and enquired with the FTRS Captain if he'd ever read any books on training the battle shot or Army operational shooting. This got more spittle from the corner of his mouth and another tirade. In retrospect I should have lamped him and requested Courts Marshall.

I was deployed despite failing to meet the minimum standard. Luckily I was attached to a unit that had a range day shortly after arriving and I was left to zero my gat without interference
Cutaway said:
Is this normal in the TA or just a local thing ?
Depends on the unit itself and Brigade Commanders SOP

Even in infantry units cooks and bottle washers get pencil passes.

Something which makes the bods p###ed off
Cutaway said:
Arrses need kicking, and the higher up the chain of command the better !
No doubt about that, Sgt Nightingale may have died because of RTMC's actions. We've all had weapon handling drilled into us from day 1, why someone should someone die from an ND (or was it?).
If Capt McIntyre is regular army he should be hung drawn and quarted, if TA he can face a firing squad by people he has passed/'trained' (so prolonging his death)
Hootch said:
Another question is how many got the chance to re-zero their weapons in theatre ?
My Sqn zeroed on arrival and check zeroed monthly. It's not difficult - just takes a bit of direction from SHQ and initiative from trg personnel within the Sqn.
Cutaway said:
fivetodo said:
for the 2 years prior to his tour he only had to pass the Zero and attempt the APWT to gain his bounty ;)
Is this normal in the TA or just a local thing ?
Definitely local (we used to put lots of effort into getting everybody through all the hoops). But occasionally understandable* (*=in certain, very limited, and occasionally necessary, situations). You try getting the chefs out on the range and still have the troops fed, or the pay clerks out on the range the weekend before the docs inspection.

Mind you, when the first draft of the AOSP came out, I got dragged into the Trg Maj's office and told "Ah, young Gravelbelly, tell us what you think of this then".

Went off, read it, came to the conclusion that it was a damn good basis for training and maintaining the battle shot. Then started to do the maths. How many soldiers in a rifle company, how many hours on the typical range over a weekend, how many firing points, realistic detail sizes, total up all the mandatory LF lessons pre-APWT, total up the APWT.

Add in the fact that not everyone can make all the weekends; add in the results of the last Bn APWT as a rough guide to resits required at each stage. Ignored the whole LSW / Alternative pers wpn thing for simplicity.

Factored in the typical two-lane 0.22 range in the TAC (forty evenings per year, should give everyone in the company, oooh, an hour or two a year of 0.22). Factored in the "ah, but you're within a half-hour's drive of a 10-lane SAT" (ditto).

Came to the conclusion that it was possible for the TA to fully and correctly comply with AOSP, at a (hmmm) cost. Wrote it up, and it went zipping up the chain faster than a fast thing.....

Realistically, the key problem is trained coaches within the TA. Far too often, the skill-at-arms instructor is a capable instructor, but a less capable coach; not enough training of their own marksmanship skills, not enough opportunities to actually coach firers. Generally you're strapped for safety supervisors, so all the coaches end up...... not being able to coach effectively.

Generally, an instructor given time will stick to their competence or excellence; and given the above, it's not surprising how often you hear an SAA lesson given over to "immediate action" or "stoppage drills", rather than "holding, aiming and firing" - which IMHO should be the bulk of training. If dry training is good enough prep for Olympic champions, it's good enough for me; don't let the only time that the firer actually tries the kneeling position, be the firing point.

:idea: My pet idea was to have the unit shooting team as a reserve of coaching talent; payback for all that time sunbathing at Bisley :twisted: Stuff the range qual, just get them the coaching qual. Never got it to fly properly, though :cry:

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