A Royal Marine died after falling down a gorge he did not know was there because it was marked on a map in Welsh. The inquest into the death of marine Ashley Hicks heard that he fell 100ft down a gorge near Trawsfynydd in Wales in October 2012 during an “escape and evasion” exercise.
Later that night, another marine suffered a broken leg after falling 30ft in the same gorge.
The Telegraph reports that the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, and said it could have been avoided: “Had the gorge been identified in the recce procedure it would have been out of bounds and he wouldn’t have been there,” she said.
“Crucially there will be more attempts to gain local specialist knowledge of unacceptable hazards on training grounds.
“The failure to identify this gorge as an unduly hazardous location is clearly the most significant contributing factor to Ashley slipping and falling.”
The Welsh word for gorge, “ceunant”, appeared on the map and no one had thought to translate it to English.
Soldier AA, the assistant chief of staff responsible for specialist units at the Ministry of Defence, explained: “It’s unlikely they would obtain translation of the words. We tend to operate in symbology.”
He added that the military now also use Google maps “to try to fly the terrain.”
“We are quite proud of our map-reading ability. On this occasion that ability wasn’t good enough to prevent the non-identification of this hazard. We have taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again. One of these steps is to take advice,” he said, adding: “We now know what ‘gorge’ in Welsh looks like.”
Ashley Hicks was taking part in a selection exercise for Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS). The scenario was that marines had been downed in a helicopter crash in the middle of enemy territory, with a “hunter” force of 100 “enemy” soldiers pursuing them.
Another officer, Soldier R, paid tribute to his colleague: “He was a good candidate for whom we had the highest expectations. We would expect rather than hope someone of Ashley’s quality would pass the course.”