DEFENCE secretary Penny Mordaunt has visited a troubled army base following reports soldiers had been evacuated from their damp barracks over health fears.
Ms Mordaunt made the impromptu visit to Baker Barracks on Thorney Island this morning to assess the state of the camp’s accommodation.
It came after the army admitted to The News it was forced to close one of the buildings following reports a soldier had fallen ill with a ‘damp-related’ condition.
One source on the base, who is not being named, said: ‘It came as quite a surprise. She came in totally unannounced. The lads were flapping because they weren’t expecting her.’
The Portsmouth North MP’s visit was prompted by The News’s revelation of the state of the barracks, on Thursday.
Ms Mordaunt was given a briefing by the army over what action is being taken to fix the problem, which has caused about 10 soldiers to be relocated. She also spoke to affected soldiers.
A spokesman for Ms Mordaunt’s office said the trip was part of her on-going work to look at Britain’s defence estate and that she was adamant ‘people must come first’.
‘The quality of service accommodation for both single persons and families has been a big focus for Penny and as the new secretary of state for defence,’ the spokesman said.
The base’s condition outraged SAS veteran and prominent Hampshire soldier, Phil Campion, who branded it ‘criminal’.
In response, the Ministry of Defence said that a survey of the building was being carried out before action is taken to rectify it.
A spokeswoman added: 'We take the safety of our personnel seriously and all soldiers in the building have been moved to alternative accommodation until the matter is resolved.’
Thorney Island is home to hundreds of soldiers from 12th Regiment and 16th Regiment Royal Artillery as well as their families.
The units specialise in short-range air defence and are currently armed with the Rapier missile system.
However, their strength will soon be boosted by the new, state-of-the-art Land Ceptor missile system.
The £250m weapons platform is able to blast targets further than ever before, with more accuracy.