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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 17:52 GMT
Sergeant 'furious' over training
Lance Corporal Andrew  Craw
Andrew Craw joined the Army in 1999
An Army sergeant who was in charge of a firing range in Iraq has said he was "furious" about not being given longer to train his men.

Sgt Callum Wilkinson's claim came during an inquest into the death of a soldier who accidentally shot himself.

L/Cpl Andrew Craw, 21, of 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, had tried to unjam a Belgian-made light machine gun in January 2004.

The hearing in Oxfordshire heard training had been rushed.

L/Cpl Craw, from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, died when the new Minimi went off as he tried to kick it into the cocked position with his hand over the barrel, an Army Board of Inquiry previously ruled.

His battalion had been taken to the firing range in Basra, southern Iraq, to learn how to use the guns, but atrocious weather forced trainers to cancel the session.

Ballistics expert

Sgt Wilkinson said he only knew they were using the new weapons when he saw soldiers loading them into the back of the lorry heading for the firing range.

He told Andrew Walker, the assistant coroner hearing the inquest, that he felt the soldiers were being trained "at the last minute", leaving no opportunity to ensure they were thoroughly schooled.

Ballistics expert Thomas Warlow also told the coroner that the dead soldier may have thought the weapon had no live rounds in the chamber when the incident happened.

But he added: "When you are trying to clear a stoppage in a gun you do not want to have the gun pointed towards yourself or anything else you don't wish to fire at because a discharge can occur."

The battalion's second in command, Maj James Scott, said that with hindsight it was "crystal clear" that given the lack of communication and medical facilities at the base, and the weather, the exercise should not have gone ahead.

Mr Walker asked him: "What do you think was responsible for this tragedy?"

He replied: "A shortage of time."

The inquest continues.

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