Corporals Matthew Hatfield and Darren Neilson, both of the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR), died of their injuries after an explosion in their tank at the Castlemartin firing ranges in Pembrokeshire on June 14, 2017.
An air-tight seal stopping high-explosive gases escaping into a tank crew’s turret was not in place before a lethal blast, an inquest into the deaths of two soldiers has heard.
Cpl Neilson, 31 and from Preston, Lancashire, was the tank commander and was thrown from Challenger 2 during the blast while Cpl Hatfield, 27, from Amesbury, Wiltshire, was loading ammunition.
Evidence has also been heard that the tank shell’s ammunition, known as “bag charges”, may have been “incorrectly stowed” outside boxes within the turret.
It also emerged the men, both highly trained gunnery instructors with combat experience, were only in the powerful battle tank because they were taking another soldier out for a “guest shoot”.
Resuming their inquests on Monday, a coroner said a crew of four, including the two men, took the tank to the British Army range’s firing point after it had been used by another team for an annual crew test.
She said a piece of equipment fitted to the tank barrel, called the bolt vent axial (BVA), had been removed by the previous crew.
Police investigators said its removal was standard practice, as it required post-firing inspection, and it was placed in a box within the tank turret called the “brew bin”.