An Army officer told an inquest that rules for medical care at the Lancashire training camp where a rookie soldier died after a play-fight with another squaddie were “contradictory.”
Major Stuart MacLachlan, Private Steven Murray’s company commander, admitted there had been a “lack of clarity” in regulations for treating injuries and illness suffered by troops during the week-long adventure course at Halton near Lancaster.
Pte Murray was found collapsed in a dormitory at around 5am, more than eight hours after he hit his head on a concrete floor during a bout of “playful rough and tumble.”
The inquest at Preston heard the 23-year-old, who had drunk around half a bottle of vodka, suffered a fractured skull and massive bleeding on the brain.
But coroner Dr James Adeley was told no medical help had been summoned earlier, even though he had been knocked unconscious for around 10 minutes and had later complained of a headache. Instead he had been put to bed.
An ambulance crew called to the barracks and then doctors at a hospital A&E department could not revive the trainee soldier. The delay treating the injury, said a consultant neurosurgeon, meant it was “unsurvivable.”
Major MacLachlan, based at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire, said Pt Murray’s platoon had been on an adventure training week at Halton when the injury happened. The week was meant to be a “dry” course, with no alcohol to be consumed.
The troops had travelled to the Lancaster area without a medic of their own because medical care was provided by staff at the Halton centre during daytime activities. The arrangements for evening and night, when the soldiers were just relaxing, were detailed in a series of orders and instructions.
They had a first aid kit to treat cuts and bruises, a local GP’s surgery was on-call for anything more serious and, in the case of emergencies, the troops had instructions to call 999.
But the orders relating to this system of health care had been contradictory, revealed Major MacLachlan. They were contained in 13 separate documents and it wasn’t clear if NCOs down to corporal were familiar with all the relevant procedures.