The inquest into the death of Edinburgh paratrooper Mark Wright, who was posthumously awarded a George Cross for bravery, has found that significant failures on the part of the British army contributed to the 27 year-old's death in an Afghan minefield in 2006.
Corporal Wright was killed from injuries sustained by a blast from a mine after he went to help a colleague who had been injured in a mapped minefield.
The soldier’s communication had been limited because of lack of radio batteries at observation posts, and his patrol had not been informed that it was to operate in the vicinity of a minefield.
Corporal Wright himself was fatally wounded as a Chinook helicopter, which was not equipped for a rescue mission and therefore could not winch the wounded man to safety, attempted to land, setting off a second mine with the force of its downwash.
Concluding the hearing into Cpl Wright’s death, coroner Andrew Walker said that his death, as well as injuries to six others in the same incident, could have been avoided were it not for shortages in equipment and delays in sending an appropriate rescue helicopter to assist the men.
Mr Walker told the court: "That a brave soldier lost in battle is always a matter of deep sadness but when that life is lost where it need not have been because of a lack of equipment and assets, those responsible should hang their heads in shame," adding that Cpl. Wright had illustrated “unhesitating courage."
Cpl. Wright and his colleagues were caught in the minefield after they went to the aid of sniper Lance Corporal Stuart Hale who lost part of his leg after he activated a hidden mine.
Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal previously told the inquest that an RAF Chinook had to be sent to rescue the group after Nato command in the area at first refused to send an American Black Hawk helicopter, more appropriate for such an operation, to help the men.
Despite attempting to wave away the RAF helicopter which they feared could set of further explosions, the downdraft from the aircraft set of another mine beside Cpl Wright.
His colleagues told the inquest how Cpl Wright administered his own first aid despite his injuries and remained calm, trying to raise morale of the injured troops.
A Black Hawk did eventually come to the aid of the men three hours later, but Cpl Wright died before he reached hospital. Six of his colleagues also lost limbs in the incident.
In a statement through their solicitor Paul Harrington, the family off Cpl Wright said they would like lessons to be learned from the tragedy.
The statement said: “Listening to the evidence over the last two weeks there has clearly been a serious systemic failure to provide suitable training, intelligence and resources,” calling for better equipment and intelligence for those serving in war zones.
The family also indicated that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should review its minefield rescue tactics as a “matter of priority."
Cpl Wright’s father, Bobby Wright, spoke briefly to reporters outside the court, declaring his pride at his son’s bravery, and the actions of his colleagues.
He said: “We are satisfied that Mark did not cause his own death, or contribute to it in anyway. This will give us some piece of mind,” adding that it had been painful for the family to listen to the "catalogue of errors" which had led to their sons death.
The MoD has indicated that it will pay damages to Cpl Wright’s family, although it stopped short of issuing any apology or comment on reviewing minefield rescue.
Armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said after the judgment: “We have listened to the Coroner's comments and all of the evidence that was presented.
"I would like to reassure Corporal Wright's family that we are determined to learn all of the lessons that we can.
"We have agreed to pay compensation to Corporal Wright's family and we will ensure this happens with as little distress to them as possible.”
He added: “Corporal Wright lost his life attempting to save one of his comrades and this same selfless heroism was shown by all those involved in this tragic incident.”
Despite the coroners damning remarks, the army has continued to deny that its troops are under-resourced.
Commander of Joint Helicopter Command, Rear Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt said: “I am responsible for the provision of all battlefield helicopters and crews to both Afghanistan and Iraq and I am confident that our current resources enable our forces to meet the tasks that they face.
“In the spirit of our shared efforts in Afghanistan, resources are pooled across the countries fighting there. In addition to UK Chinook, Apache, Sea King and Lynx helicopters, our forces can also access significant numbers of other types of helicopters provided by our allies.”