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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
'Drop land ban', army chief urges
The Cambrian Patrol - picture courtesy of the Army
The Army uses huge swathes of land for exercises
Wales' senior Army commander has urged farmers to drop their opposition to soldiers, including the elite SAS, training of their land.

Brigadier Iain Cholerton said more troops would die unless they could train on the "most arduous terrain".

He met farmers privately in Carmarthen on Monday night.

Earlier in the day, farmers' hostility to the government's ban on hunting with dogs forced the relocation of a major exercise in mid and south west Wales.

Farmers in the two regions had threatened to ban troops from their land in protest at new hunting laws.

The brigadier told farmers at the meeting that Wales was used to train the elite troops of the Special Air Service (SAS), something that was suspected for some time but never before confirmed by the Army.

SAS badge
We need to talk solutions and if soldiers are not trained in the most arduous terrain then more will be killed
Brigadier Iain Cholerton

Brigadier Cholerton, who is based in Brecon in Powys, said the Army was "dependant" and "enormously indebted" to Welsh farmers.

He added that 1.5m soldier training days were conducted in Wales, 350,000 of those were on private land.

The brigadier confirmed the SAS elite squad used Wales for its selection course, "The terrain is difficult," he said.

"The hills separate the men from the boys. Soldiers need to be tested in the most arduous terrain.

"We need to talk solutions and if soldiers are not trained in the most arduous terrain then more will be killed. We need to move on."

Many farmers are furious at the hunting ban

Brigadier Cholerton also told farmers that nearly every soldier they had seen on TV serving in Iraq had spent some time training in Wales.

Farmers' Union of Wales county president in Carmarthenshire, Nick Somerfield, agreed farmers had to move on.

"The protest has been successful, but I also accept that we now need to move on and to move on to other means of protesting at the government ban on hunting."

Major Peter Cripps, of the Army press office in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, said on Monday that the exercise in mid and south west Wales was still going ahead, but not on private land in Wales.

It is unclear where the training will take place or whether it will remain in Wales.

Pro-hunting farmers ban military
25 Oct 04 |  Wiltshire


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