SAS hero’s insight into tough training

Pete Winner.
Pete Winner.

An SAS hero from Morecambe who endured a gruelling selection challenge in the Brecon Beacons has given a insight into the conditions which may have contributed to the deaths of two soldiers.

Territorial Army soldier Lance Corporal Craig Roberts, who lived in London, and a colleague died in the national park last weekend as temperatures reached 30 degrees during a 40-mile hike as part of an SAS selection trial.

It is understood that the incident involved six soldiers collapsing, and one remains in hospital.

Pete Winner, 64, who spent the first 20 years of his life in Morecambe, faced a similar challenge in the Brecon Beacons more than 40 years ago.

He then went on to serve for 18-years in the special forces and dealt with the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London.

Speaking to BBC Radio 2 this week, Pete, who lived in Acre Moss Lane and attended Euston Road Secondary Modern School, said: “The weather was more or less as hot as it is now.

“Apart from the jungles of the world and the mountain regions of Dhofar in Oman I don’t think I’ve been in a tougher terrain.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m not doing it because it’s too hot’.

“Once it starts, that’s it.”

Pete told of how his former troop officer Mike Kealy, had died from hypothermia during a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons.

The pair were among nine SAS soldiers who helped to defeat 300 armed insurgents in the Battle of Mirbat in Oman in 1972, after which Captain Kealy received the Distinguished Service Order.

“He sadly died of exposure during an endurance march during some of the worst weather ever recorded,” said father of three Pete.

“The endurance march is the last march of the test week.

“You have to go 40 miles over the Brecon Beacons in under 20 hours carrying a 55lb pack and wearing full fighting gear.

“You have to do it in under 20 hours or you fail.

“When I did my selection there were Territorial Army guys there but a few of them fell by the wayside when we got to the endurance march.

“It’s really tough.”

The Brecon Beacons is home to the Infantry Battle School and makes up one of Britain’s largest military training areas.