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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 February, 2004, 12:55 GMT
MoD hit with more kit complaints
Marines on Arctic training
3 Commando Brigade on an earlier Arctic training mission
Eighty Royal Marines have been flown home from training in Norway with frostbite, amid claims they had inadequate sleeping bags.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the number brought home - plus a further 46 injured in activities like skiing - is higher than in the past.

But they say that due to deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is four years since the last winter warfare exercise.

The claims follow a series of rows over the supply of military kit.

A lot of their equipment should be better to survive in the conditions
Colonel Lars Sundnes
Norwegian army chief
"Around 80 marines have been flown home with cold weather injuries," an MoD spokesman told BBC News Online.

The evacuation, out of a total of some 2,300 personnel, comes three weeks into a month-long exercise.

The MoD confirmed some marines had bought their own sleeping bags to help cope with the freezing temperatures.

The spokesman said though it was usually an annual exercise, it had not happened for four years.

"Skills in winter warfare have been reduced somewhat, for many of the troops this will be their first time in these conditions.

"We are confident that the kit we provide our troops is among the best in the world, but we will look and see if there is any room for improvement."

But Norwegian army chief Colonel Lars Sundnes told the Mail on Sunday the marines' sleeping bags were not good enough.

Hoon apologised

"A lot of their equipment should be better to survive in the conditions," he said.

Logistics specialists Captain Stephen Mellor is quoted as saying many of the sleeping bags are up to 10 years old, and pledging that the Army is looking at replacing them.

The MoD say the high number of personnel being sent home is due to a new policy which meant those injured were now sent home immediately rather than being left to recover abroad.

The supply of soldiers' kit has been hitting the headlines regularly in recent years.

In December 2003 a National Audit Office report found frontline forces were left without vital kit during the Iraq War because of supply failures.

Nuclear, chemical and biological weapon protection suits and desert clothing did not reach or fit many troops, it said.

In January this year defence secretary Geoff Hoon apologised because a soldier killed in Iraq had lacked the proper body armour.

Sgt Steve Roberts, 33, was told to hand back his flak jacket because there were not enough to go round.

Last year figures revealed more than half the soldiers in the British Army buy their own kit because the standard issue is inadequate.

Following an exercise in Oman in 2002, troops complained to the National Audit Office (NAO) that their feet had rotted after boots melted in temperatures of up to 55C.




SEE ALSO:
UK troops 'left without key kit'
11 Dec 03  |  Politics
Hoon 'sorry' over soldier's death
16 Jan 04  |  Politics
Soldiers 'having to buy own kit'
16 Jan 03  |  UK News


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