Leicestershire Guardsman Pays Tribute To His Friend At Inquest
Serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are calling for the Ministry of Defence to review security and Forces protections measures at military bases in Afghanistan after a soldier was killed and another sustained serious injuries in an explosion caused by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
Jack Davies, a 22-year-old guardsman with the Coldstream Guards, suffered spinal injuries and needed his left leg amputating after the explosion which killed his comrade Lance Corporal James Hill on 8 October 2009.
The bomb was detonated as troops trained at ranges near Camp Bastion in Helmand Province – the biggest British military base built since World War Two – just four days after they were both deployed to the war zone.
An Inquest into Lance Corporal Hill’s death at Woking Coroner’s Court heard today (Tuesday 31 July) that concerns had been raised a year before the explosion about safety at the ranges where training took place. Security flaws allowed Afghan civilians to collect shell casings, which they sold for scrap, at the end of each range training session.
Now Jack has instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who have represented many severely injured armed forces personnel, as he battles to get his life back on track and seeks vital funds for rehabilitation.
Richard Travers, HM Coroner for Surrey, said Lance Corporal Hill was unlawfully killed and more could have been done to protect soldiers based at Camp Bastion however, changes have now been made by the MoD to increase security.
The coroner said: "Immediately after James Hill's death substantial changes were made to the firing ranges and the manner in which they were protected and in which the training was done.
"Those changes reduced the risk from IED placement to the safest possible level in the circumstances prevailing at that time.
"It was within the scope of the powers of the military authorities to have taken those measures prior to James Hills' death."
After two and a half years Jack, from Loughborough in Leicestershire, is still coming to terms with his injuries and is expected to be medically discharged from the Armed Forces in early 2013. He has joined lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell to call for improved safety procedures for soldiers while on duty.
Jack said: “When we got to the range we made sure our rifles were safe, put down our kit and had a safety briefing. We had been there for about 10 or 15 minutes maybe, then there was a blinding flash and an explosion. I can’t remember coming round until I was back in hospital in the UK.
“Every soldier accepts that our job is dangerous but the fact Jimmy’s death could have been prevented makes me really angry. I hope the MoD has listened to what I, the coroner and lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have said and that training grounds are as made as safe as they can be in future. Training ranges should definitely be brought ‘inside the wire,’ or closer to base where only military personnel can access them.
“I was looking forward to a long career in the Army and was proud to be in Afghanistan serving my country. I loved the camaraderie between my friends and had never really wanted to do anything else. But I’ve lost a good friend, his parents have lost their only son and my life will never be the same again because of my injuries. I used to be fit, healthy and liked sports so coming to terms with losing my leg and the career I loved has been devastating.
“I’m now trying to be positive about the future and I’m determined to get my life back on track in memory of the mates I have lost during service.”
The inquest heard how Captain William Riley raised his own concerns about the safety of the training range used by soldiers at Camp Bastion a year before Lance Corporal Hill’s death. The officer, currently serving in Afghanistan, visited elders in the local community in a bid to stop crowds of up to 30 people at a time gathering at the range to collect shell casings for scrap metal. In a report he prepared for officers at Camp Bastion, he recommended building the training ranges closer to camp.
He told the inquest he saw this as a “significant threat that needed to be addressed.”
Andrew Buckham, an expert solicitor in the armed forces team at Irwin Mitchell, is representing Jack.
Andrew said: “The Inquest has been a distressing ordeal for Jack who has had to relive the horrible circumstances in which his friend was killed and he suffered life-changing injuries. We are very concerned following the coroner’s comments and want to see assurances from the MoD that his points have been addressed to improve safety for our armed forces personnel at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
“We appreciate that working in a war zone is an incredibly dangerous job, but we hope the MoD has noted the concerns raised at the Inquest by Jack and others who say this incident could have been prevented.”
“We will continue to support Jack in his own bid for justice so that a settlement can be agreed to ensure he can pay for the future care and rehabilitation he deserves and needs.”
If you've suffered an injury as a result of a military accident you might be entitled to claim compensation. See our Military Claims page for more details.