Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut
|Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut|
Location within Surrey
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Built for||War Office|
|Occupants||Royal Logistics Corps|
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.
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 on 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. 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 (renamed Princess Royal Barracks after Anne, Princess Royal).
The Barracks were the garrison of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and the School of Ordnance, until it merged into the Royal Logistic Corps in 1993. Dettingen and Alma Barracks have been closed and sold, and by 2002, demolished for housing development.
In 2012; following the Defence Training Review and the merger of tri-service training to a single location, it was announced that the barracks were to close with the land being released for housing development.
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.
- 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.
On 18 July 2014, it was announced that a new inquest had been ordered by the High Court into the death of soldier Pte Cheryl James following a legal challenge by her family. The judges said that there had been “an insufficiency of inquiry” into her death. The original inquest, held in 1995 soon after Pte James's death, lasted barely an hour and recorded an open verdict. The ruling means that new inquests will also follow into the deaths of the other three recruits: Pte Sean Benton (20), Pte Geoff Gray (17), and Pte James Collinson (17).
Surrey Police has been criticised for its handling of the case and Judge Thornton said that Surrey Police had at first refused full disclosure of the reinvestigation report to Pte James's family. The force eventually handed over 44 lever arch files of documents after being threatened with legal action. The force said it had now voluntarily provided all relevant material to the family - since being asked to early in 2012 - and what had been disclosed "affords fresh grounds for an inquest". The documents handed over included "important material relating to ballistics, the noise of the gunshot, bullet fragments, the finding of the body, the credibility of some witnesses, and further witnesses". The new inquest is to be carried out either by the current senior coroner for the Surrey area, who did not conduct the original one, or by a coroner to be agreed by the senior coroner, the Chief Coroner and Judge Thornton.
- "Historical Pattern of Development". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
- "Deepcut Barracks plan approved by councillors". Get Surrey. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
- "Recruiting Selection and Training". Armed Forces. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
- 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
- "Call for fresh inquest into 1995 death of Cheryl James at Deepcut barracks". BBC. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- 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 
- Norton-Taylor, Richard (July 2014). “Deepcut barracks: fresh inquest ordered into soldier's death”, The Guardian, 18 July 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Private Eye (July 2014). “Deepcut Deaths: Fresh Start”, Private Eye, No. 1371, 25 July – 7 August 2014, pg. 30
- BBC News (July 2014). “New Deepcut inquest to be held into death of Cheryl James”, BBC News, 18 July 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "Parents inspired by Deepcut play"