On 14 October 2020, the Daily Express reported that 30-year-old, Keelan Gartside, is suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for non-freezing cold injury (NFCI).[i]
It is alleged that the former Royal Marine developed this condition while attending a military survival exercise in Porsangermoen, Norway, in January 2016. Prior to this, he had completed 9-years of military service.
In the course of arctic combat training, it is presented that Mr. Gartside spent most his time outside during snow showers and often standing still. He also spent 3-nights in a hollowed-out hardened snow shelter (a quinzhee igloo) and an additional 7-nights in unheated tents. The lowest air temperature was recorded at (-)20 °C, but windchill effect dropped this further, to (-)40 °C.
Having experienced the extreme cold and wet environment for a prolonged period, Mr. Gartside’s statement of case reveals that he sustained persistent cold injuries which led him to suffer pain, numbness and tingling in his hands. He left the military in 2018 and submits that his future job prospects have been damaged, given his continuing inability to work in cold occupational settings.
Claimant law firm, Hugh James, is putting forward the ex-soldier’s case that the MoD was negligent ‘or in breach of duty’ (inferring that the claim will be brough on statutory and common law grounds), in proceedings valued at £100,000.
It is purported that the Government failed to assess the risk of the operation. Mr. Gartside was supposedly given ‘brief tuition on cold injuries’ and was not allowed to warm up or dry out for long intervals, while ‘complaining … was discouraged’. What is more, he asserts that his employer failed to supply him with cold weather boots, socks, gloves and sleeping bag. On 4 separate visits to retailers, he was informed that his boots were unavailable, while he was ostensibly forced to wear thin gloves instead of mittens because the latter precluded him from effectively mantling his weapon and skis. Compounding these accusations is the fact that, even though 3 Marine colleagues were medically evacuated from the exercise with cold-induced ailments, supervisors apparently made no attempt to inspect Mr. Gartside’s hands or feet for signs of NFCI.
When questioned, the MoD refused to comment on any ongoing litigation, but maintained that all employed service personnel are provided with ‘the kit that they need’.
[i] Cyril Dixon, ‘Marine sues Ministry of Defence for £100,000 after he had to sleep in igloo’ (14 October 2020 The Express) <https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1347569/marine-sues-Ministry-of-Defence-sleep-in-igloo> accessed 28 October 2020.