Soldiers fail to hit the target

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Some British soldiers still cannot shoot straight, according to a report by the Commons Select Committee on Defence which will make embarrassing reading for the top brass, writes Colin Brown.

The Army Medical Service are singled out for their failure in the annual personal weapons test, recording a pass rate of a "less than impressive 67.5 per cent". The Army doctors may be able to excuse their poor shooting record on the Hippocratic Oath, requiring them to save lives wherever possible. But the figures suggest the enemy might have a one-in-five chance of being missed if confronted by a British squaddie at the battle front.

However, pass rates for the infantry, who have a more demanding test than most other members of the armed forces, have improved since their last report, the committee noted. The lowest recorded was for the Royal Signals, who scored 89 per cent.

But the MPs said they were "disturbed" to find that some troops were not completing the mandatory annual personal weapons test at all. When this was taken into account, the overall pass rate was reduced to 84.6 per cent for the infantry.

The MPs were "very disappointed" to discover that the number of infantry battalions taking part in the annual Tickle Skill at Arms Competition fell from 26 to 14. A committee source said the drop-off in interest in the shooting competition was put down to lack of sporting interest. "They are fed up with the Gurkhas always winning," said the source.