Ten soldiers are kicked out of the Army after taking cocaine and cannabis at an illegal party
- Ten soldiers who took cocaine and cannabis have been kicked out of the Army
- The drugs were consumed at a party at Albemarle Barracks near Newcastle
- The swift approach was backed by soldiers who felt let down by their colleagues
Ten soldiers who took cocaine and cannabis at an illegal party have been kicked out of the Army.
Their commanding officer sent them hundreds of miles to a testing facility to ensure the drugs were detected before vanishing from their system.
Lt Col Simon Harris was praised for his ‘old school’ hardline stance in dealing with the troops, two of them women.
Lt Col Simon Harris, pictured, was praised for his ‘old school’ hardline stance in dealing with the troops, two of them women
Nine members of 3rd Battalion, the Royal Horse Artillery – a formation that dates back to 1793 – had taken cocaine in the party at Albemarle Barracks near Newcastle on January 15. One had taken cannabis.
With nearer drug testing facilities closed, they were driven 650 miles to and from Trenchard Lines military base at Upavon in Wiltshire, where they all failed compulsory drug tests (CDTs).
As the incident represented a first offence for those involved, their commanding officer could have given them a second chance – but instead ended their military careers within 24 hours.
The swift approach was backed by soldiers who felt let down by their colleagues.
It is a marked contrast with the way in which the Royal Air Force dealt with a similar situation in November.
History: The Royal Horse Artillery at Waterloo
Military police found ‘drug paraphernalia’ when they broke up a party at RAF Honington, Suffolk, but the 11 airmen they arrested were not drug-tested for four days.
This meant that traces of illegal substances would have been hard to detect and they passed CDTs.
A Royal Artillery source said last night: ‘The commanding officer is an old-school disciplinarian. Having partied all night the troops were dragged out of their block and put on parade. They looked high on drugs.
‘Lt Col Harris wasn’t going to let them off the hook by delaying the drug test or, after they all failed CDTs, using his discretion to grant them a reprieve. Under current Army rules if soldiers are young and have a good record he can let them stay on.
The regimental badge
‘He was having none of that and when word spread that they had been kicked out so quickly other squaddies thought it was the right response.
‘If the Army is serious about tackling drug taking it has to come down hard on people. Giving second chances to people after they’ve been snorting cocaine just seems weak.’
Official figures suggest drug use is rising in the Armed Forces. In 2019, 660 members were dismissed for failing drug tests, up from 580 in 2017.
Last night the Army said in a statement: ‘We are aware of an incident involving personnel at Albemarle Barracks. The Army does not tolerate drug abuse within its ranks and any Army personnel caught taking drugs can expect to be discharged.’
The Royal Horse Artillery was founded in 1793, when the 3rd Duke of Richmond in his role as Master-General of Ordnance raised troops to provide fire support for the cavalry.
Soldiers of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery pictured in training
All members of the regiment were mounted, breaking with the practice up until then of guns being served and drawn by different units. The radical change greatly enhanced tactical mobility during the Napoleonic Wars.
The annals of the regiment in recent years includes the heroism of Ben Parkinson, who survived the most serious injuries of any British soldier in Afghanistan.
Last year he went on a 1,000- mile cycle ride despite having lost both his legs.
In 2013, 17 soldiers in the 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, were kicked out of the Army after being caught using a dangerous performance-enhancing drug.