Page last updated at 19:57 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Criticism of troops 'making do'

Alun Hicks: "If they had more air power our soldiers would be safer"

British Army troops at a base where a soldier was mortally wounded "made do" with "unacceptable" protection, a coronor told an inquest.

Capt David Hicks, 26, from Berkshire, died after sustaining shrapnel wounds at the remote Inkerman base in Afghanistan on 11 August last year.

Protective walls were too low, soldiers slept under netting and there was no doctor at the base, the inquest heard.

Coroner David Masters recorded a verdict that he was unlawfully killed.

Mr Masters said he found the protection for troops at the remote base in Helmand Province to be unacceptable.

And when he asked Capt Hicks' commanding officer, Lt Col Stuart Carver, if he too found it unacceptable, Col Carver replied "I do".

Captain David Hicks
Captain Hicks was awarded a posthumous Military Cross for bravery

He continued: "In an ideal world they wouldn't have to make do. That's part of the nature of the job. We're always making do."

But Mr Masters told the inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall: "I don't think making do is an acceptable proposition for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan - I'm very anxious about that."

However, after hearing that protection had since been improved and that a doctor was now on site, he said he did not need to make recommendations to the government.

Capt Hicks, from Wokingham in Berkshire, had been serving with the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan since March 2007.

He was commanding C "Essex" Company when the base came under a rocket attack which also left five other soldiers injured.

Capt Hicks had climbed to the top of an observation platform when he was injured in a "massive explosion".

He has left a hole in the battalion that will never be filled
Captain Ollie Ormiston

The coroner described how Capt Hicks drifted in and out of consciousness and pleaded with medics to allow him to rejoin the battle.

Mr Masters added: "He was seen to remove his mask and shout 'get me back up there'."

Capt Hicks was awarded a posthumous Military Cross.

The inquest heard that medics had to treat Capt Hicks on the floor outside the medical room because it was full to its capacity of just one person.

He lost consciousness and the medical team tried to resuscitate him on board a helicopter as he was transferred to a medical facility, Mr Masters said.

Ruptured artery

Capt Hicks had suffered a ruptured artery in his chest which would have required specialist surgery within 30 minutes, the inquest heard. The cause of death was recorded as fragmentation wounds to the chest.

Before the inquest, his father Alun Hicks had criticised the lack of a doctor at the base.

And during the hearing Mr Masters said he would "want to know more" about its medical provision.

Afterwards, Mr Hicks said: "We need to make sure our troops are sufficient on the ground in the first place, secondly are adequately supplied and thirdly that major gaps in resources are filled.

"If they had more airpower, our soldiers would be safer and chances of success would be enhanced."

Extra protection

Captain Ollie Ormiston paid tribute to his former comrade.

He said: "Dave Hicks was a good man, a good friend, a brave and courageous officer. He has left a hole in the battalion that will never be filled."

A Ministry of Defence statement said the coroner's comments would be noted and lessons would be learned.

It read: "Force protection measures are based upon the latest available information about the threat.

"Since this incident, extra force protection measures have been put in place at the base."

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