Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut
The Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, commonly referred to as Deepcut Barracks, is the headquarters of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) of the British Army and the Defence School of Logistics. Located near Camberley, Surrey, England, it was the headquarters of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps until the formation of the RLC in 1993. At that time, it was known as Blackdown Barracks.
The barracks remain home to the RLC Museum, the Band of the RLC, The Defence School of Logistics and 25 Training Support Regiment RLC, which trains the officers and soldiers in a range of logistical skills.
By the start of 2012, following the Defence Training Review and the merger of tri-service training to a single location, the barracks were to close by 2013 with the land being released for housing development. However, in February 2012 there was public opposition to the plan prepared by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and a rethink ordered.
The area had been used as a training ground for the army from the late 19th century with no formal military infrastructure until 1900 when the Royal Engineers commenced the build of a number of camps, including Blackdown. The land was owned by the Pain family of Frimley Green who built a number of high status dwellings on the land.
Blackdown camp was established in the late 1903 initially to accommodate artillery and infantry, centred around Winchester house, renamed Blackdown House when it was appropriated by the War Office for military use.
The barracks built in Blackdown Camp were Minden, Dettingen, Alma, Frith, Aisne and Marne Barracks. By the Second World War these had a capacity of 25,000 soldiers.
The Victorian houses were demolished in the 1950s, the land around Blackdown House being left to forestry, and around Dettingen House being redeveloped for a modernised Officers Mess.
The site of Aisne and Marne Barracks were also re-developed and used for Military Family Housing.
What remained of Frith Barracks were closed in the late 1970s and the land left to vegetation and used as a Military Training Area,
Between 1967 and 1971 Minden Barracks was demolished and rebuilt as Blackdown Barracks (now Princess Royal Barracks). It remains in good order and a modernised site.
Dettingen and Alma Barracks have been closed and sold, and by 2002, demolished for housing development.
The Barracks was the garrison of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and the school of Ordnance, until it merged into the Royal Logistic Corps, which established its Headquarters at the camp.
Defence College of Logistics
The Defence College of Logistics is responsible for training in logistics skills for Army and Royal Air Force officers and other ranks, as well as some naval logistics disciplines.
The School has its headquarters at the Barracks with some specialist training taking place elsewhere, with access to special equipment or terrain.
RLC personnel conduct their Phase 2 training at Deepcut, having completed Phase 1 training at an Army Training Regiment for soldiers or Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Officers. All Officers undertake the RLC Troop Commanders Course prior to posting to a Regiment.
Soldier trainees specialise in a number of trades:
- Ammunition Technician
- Driver / Port Operator
- Seaman / Navigator
- Marine Engineer
- Driver / Radio Operator
- Driver / Air Despatcher
- Movement Controller
- Postal and Courier Operator
- Petroleum Operator
- Rail Operator
Officers may undertake specialist training as:
- Ammunition Technical Officer
- Port and Maritime Operations Officer
- Petroleum Officer
- Food Services Officer
- Postal and Courier Services Officer
Trainee deaths at Deepcut
The deaths of four trainees at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 prompted families, the public and Ministry of Defence itself to call for investigation into any possible links, following four Coroner's commissioned investigations and inquests each producing a verdict of suicide by gunshot wounds. This series prompted national media speculation.
The four deaths were:
- On 27 November 1995, Private Cheryl James, of Froncysllte, Llangollen was found dead with a single bullet wound to her head at the headquarters of the Royal Logistic Corps in woods not far from her abandoned guard post.
- On 17 September 2001, Private Geoff Gray, from Hackney, East London, was found with two gunshot wounds to his head while on guard duty, having left colleagues to undertake a lone prowler patrol in contravention of normal policy.
- On 23 March 2002, Private James Collinson, from Perth, was found dead with a single gunshot wound while on guard duty at the barracks.
First investigations of each death were undertaken by Metropolitan Police and the Royal Military Police, as each was an independent incident and determined in the usual manner for unexpected deaths by a Coroner.
A later review/re-investigation by Surrey Police treated the four deaths as potentially related, but sustained the coroners' verdicts of suicide. An investigation consequent to this finding, also by Surrey Police, identified a number of failures of the Army's duty of care at the barracks, leaving the opportunity and motive for suicide available. Its findings were rejected by most members of the families who, following the series, sought and in most cases, still seek a judicial inquiry into the circumstances. The findings led to media and families' criticism of the army investigations of the deaths over record keeping, transparency and particularly maintenance of evidence and forensic material.
The most recent private review with voluntary cooperation of all parties by Nicholas Blake QC of Matrix Chambers published in March 2006 (completed over two years) concluded that it was more likely than not that the deaths were self-inflicted but criticised a number of aspects of training at Deepcut at the time which could have contributed to the deaths.
Points identified by his report were:
- The training environment at Deepcut, causing low morale through poor accommodation, limited recreational facilities, and the balance between privacy and dormitory life.
- Unsupervised access to weapons.
- Supervision of trainees.
- Discipline, bullying and informal sanctions.
- Ventilation of grievances.
- Poor instructors.
An Inquiry Report by the Army Board of Inquiry was due to be published in December 2007, but was delayed by the Ministry of Defence until May 2009. The inquiry supported Mr Blake QC's findings and returned open verdicts.
Media calls for further investigations and a judicial inquiry
Articles critical of the investigations by journalists Brian Cathcart and Heather Mills featured in Private Eye in January 2010. The publication has been consistently critical of these judgements and supports the families' appeals for further investigation. These criticisms draw on the later investigations to suggest the initial forensic investigations were flawed. Cathcart has also been critical of the treatment of the four cases in the media.
- A Review of the Circumstances Surrounding the Deaths of Four Soldiers at Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut between 1995 and 2002 (HC 795), The Stationery Office March 2006
- Response to the Deepcut Review
- Private Eye, 1236, p.27
- Private Eye, 8 January 2010, 1263, p.29
- Brian Cathcart, "Deepcut: the media messed up", British Journalism Review Vol. 18, No. 1, 2007, pages 7-12 
- "Parents inspired by Deepcut play"