Weapons range death soldier was 'from Hampshire'

A young soldier who died during a training exercise at an RAF weapons range was from Hampshire.

Thursday, 3rd November 2016, 6:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 5:04 pm
Lance Corporal Joe Spencer of Hampshire, from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, who has been named as the serviceman who died during a training exercise involving around 20 personnel at an RAF weapons range in Scotland

Lance Corporal Joe Spencer, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, died following the firearms incident at RAF Tain in the Scottish Highlands on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old joined the Army in 2011 and had completed a tour of Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick 16.

He had also taken part in exercises in Kenya and the US as part of his training, the Army said. Around 30 detectives are involved in the investigation into his death.

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Confirming the soldier’s identity, defence minister Mark Lancaster said: ‘My thoughts are with Joe’s family, friends and colleagues at this terrible time.’

Police and ambulance crews were called to the range, around 30 miles north of Inverness, at around 6pm on Tuesday.

L/Cpl Spencer was found fatally injured at the site.

A post on The Rifles regiment Facebook page said: Our thoughts are with his family, friends and his brother Riflemen.”’

Hundreds of people paid tribute to L/Cpl Spencer under the post, with many leaving the message ‘RIP, swift and bold- the motto of the regiment.

Others described him as a ‘good soldier and a good lad’ in comments left on The Rifles page.

The training exercise in which the incident happened involved around 20 personnel. Police Scotland previously confirmed that a firearm was involved in the death. There were no other casualties.

The investigation into the incident is being led by the Scottish force.

Speaking on Wednesday, Chief Inspector Iain MacLelland said: “Police Scotland are leading the investigation to establish the full set of circumstances of this incident and we are working closely with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Health and Safety Executive, and the Armed Forces.

“I would wish to emphasise that this incident was confined to the RAF firing range at Tain, that no persons were involved other than those military personnel participating in the exercise, and at no stage was there a threat to the wider public safety.”

He advised that the nature of the incident meant a continued police presence in the area over the days ahead, with a cordon set up around the base on the Dornoch Firth, in Easter Ross.

Officers are said to be keeping “a very open mind” over the cause of the incident.

Political leaders have sent their condolences to the soldier’s loved ones.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is a tragic incident and my deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the person who has died.

“It is another important reminder of the often difficult and dangerous job our Armed Forces do every day.”

Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs at Westminster: “I, and I’m sure the whole House, would wish to pass on our condolences to the friends and family of the serviceman who has died at the Tain range.”

The training facility is used by the RAF and the Army. It has a rifle range and a small arms range as well as bombing ranges for aircraft.

The range is also used by US and other Nato air forces for bombing and strafing practice.

The death comes just over two months after a soldier was shot dead during a live-firing exercise at Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland.

Private Conor McPherson, 24, a member of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was killed on August 22.