Information released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the startling figures of fatalities during training in all branches of the armed forces since 2000. In total there have been 125 non-combat deaths since January 2000 attributed to accidents, mishaps, cases of assault and unknown causes with the Army being the biggest contributor to this figure with 86 in total. The Royal Navy (which includes the Royal Marines) numbered 22 deaths in the same time period while the RAF suffered 17.
The Ministry of Defence released a statement regarding the figures by saying that it was necessary to train and test military personnel to the highest level in order to maintain the highest standards that the armed forces set for its men and women. They did however recognise that some personnel will push themselves beyond their limits in order to meet or surpass the requirements which is especially true for new recruits who want to show they have what it takes. The MoD added that the armed forces try to balance out the risks compared to what they need to do to keep their personnel combat ready but reiterated that by its very nature military service is dangerous.
Just how dangerous was dramatically shown in March 2013 when three Special Air Service (SAS) recruits died during a 16-mile march on the Brecon Beacons. Temperatures were extremely high and two men died of heatstroke while a third died of multiple organ failure. The incident provoked strong anger from family members and the media and the MoD confessed that they had failed these men and apologised. Earlier this year a 25-year old Royal Marine died carrying out a similar march.
The MoD did highlight that the number of deaths in recent years has actually fallen, however many people attribute this to a dramatic reduction in the armed forces rather than a change in operating doctrine.