Army officer's flight to golf course lands him in hot water

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The Independent Online

Westminster Correspondent

A senior army officer who took a military helicopter to fly to a golf tournament - and sent his clubs by chauffeur-driven car - has been disciplined by the Ministry of Defence.

In June, Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas Connon, commanding officer, 3rd Highlanders, booked an army gazelle helicopter to take him and a colleague to a VE Day celebration and then to an inter-regimental golf competition. The VE ceremony took place only 40 miles from Lt-Col Connon's home in Nairn.

There was no room in the helicopter for their clubs, so Lt-Col Connon's driver took them the 220 miles from Nairn to the golf course in Prestwick by car. The helicopter, which belonged to the Army Air Corps, cost pounds 2,000 per hour to run.

The driver returned to Prestwick two days later to take the men home. Lt-Col Connon, who had won the tournament the previous year, returned in triumph, successfully defending his title.

Nicholas Soames, armed forces minister, said yesterday that the incident had been investigated. He confirmed that "a Gazelle helicopter deviated from its task to take two Army officers to a golf tournament".

Replying to a written question from David Clark, Labour Defence spokesman, Mr Soames said: "There was no dishonest intent" on Lt-Col Connon's part. "He did, however, make an error of judgement."

Mr Clark condemned "a blatant misuse of taxpayers' money". He said such behaviour"appears to be a regular feature in the Tory-run MoD and has no place in the modern army. Poor management and abuse of taxpayers' money are the order of the day and I am disappointed by the Minister's complacent and puny response."