Breaking the Military Covenant

'Breaking the Military Covenant - Who speaks for the dead?' was published privately in 2018.

It was re-published by Amberley Publishing in May 2019, who considered 'Who speaks for the dead?' too much for a nervous public, so they changed the title. Also, the content was a draft manuscript. Therefore, I recommend potential readers buy the authorised version from Amazon, which I'm afraid is only available in Kindle format. All proceeds go to charity.

Alternatively, the Amberley paperback and Kindle can be bought here:

ISBN 978 1 4456 8848 0 (paperback)

ISBN 978 1 4456 8849 7 (ebook)

My apologies for the prices charged by Amberley. I had no control over this. The royalties are donated to Help for Heroes. For a £16.99 paperback, that was 45p per copy. For a £13.99 Kindle, 13p. But for the authorised version at £1.99, £1.33 goes to charity.

If you wish, you can make a separate donation direct to Help for Heroes at


On 22nd March 2003 two Royal Navy Sea King ASaC Mk7 helicopters collided over the al-Faw peninsula (Northern Arabian Gulf), killing all seven aircrew. They were:

Lt Philip Green, RN

Lt Antony King, RN

Lt Marc Lawrence, RN

Lt Philip West, RN

Lt James Williams, RN

Lt Andrew Wilson, RN

Lt Thomas Adams, USN (Assigned as an exchange officer)

I knew Tony, Andy and Phil Green.

The RN Board of Inquiry concluded the precise cause of the accident could not be established beyond any doubt, but that in its opinion was caused by the 'loss of an accurate and timely appreciation in each aircraft of the other’s relative situation between reporting visual with each other and the impact'.

On 8th January 2007 the Oxford Deputy Assistant Coroner, Sir Richard Curtis, concluded the collision was an accident.

In 2010, the families contacted the Board of Inquiry President, offering new evidence revealing:

    • The Board and Coroner were misled, and,

    • An Investigator was lied to in an attempt to direct blame on an innocent party.

This information should have prompted a re-convening of the Board. No action was taken. Thus, the opportunity to establish, as far as possible, the facts, with the aim of preventing recurrence, was lost.


In 2009 I was asked by Sir Roger Gale MP, representing Mrs Ann Lawrence, mother of Marc Lawrence, to assist her with documents provided by MoD. These revealed it had lied to the families, and Sir Roger asked me to prepare a formal report. This was submitted to MoD and the Head of the Civil Service for vetting, and then to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. In 2014 the Board of Inquiry President was presented with the full report. He declined to comment. Duty of Care has no geographical or time limit. It was his duty to report to the Convening Authority that he had been misled.

I decided to condense the report into a book, 'Breaking the Military Covenant - Who speaks for the dead?’, taking this Sea King accident as the main narrative with a number of shorter chapters discussing other fatal accidents. This approach avoided repetition, the point being all share common factors.

My central point on this Sea King accident is that the three significant areas of degradation between the AEW Mk2 and ASaC Mk7 wholly coincide with the three main Contributory Factors noted by the Board of Inquiry. Each had been identified as a risk/hazard before 1996 and mitigation initiated. Contracts to deal with the Interoperability and High Intensity Strobe Lights risks were cancelled by an unauthorised officer, without making alternative plans. The third, NVG, was offered to the RN at nil cost, but rejected.

This case reveals examples of maladministration and fraud by misrepresentation (which, admittedly, Ministers have ruled are not offences), but perhaps worse is that MoD continued its tendency to blame junior staff to protect seniors. It did not mention these false accusations at the Coroner’s Inquest; but reverted afterwards, continuing to name and blame to the families. The book contains the exculpatory written and photographic evidence.


Other case studies:

  • Chinook HC Mk1 ZA721 - Falkland Islands, 27 February 1987 (7 killed)

  • Chinook HC Mk2 ZD576 - Mull of Kintyre, 2 June 1994 (29 killed)

  • Tornado GR4A ZG710 - Iraq, 22 March 2003 (2 killed)

  • The death of Corporal Mark Wright GC - Afghanistan, 6 September 2006

  • Hercules C-130K XV179 - Iraq, 30 January 2005 (10 killed)

  • The grounding of Air Cadet Glider fleets (2014-on)

  • The death of Flight Lieutenant Alex Parr, Boscombe Down, 8 July 2016

  • The death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, Afghanistan, 28 March 2003

  • Snatch Land Rovers (At least 39 killed)

  • Nimrod MR2 XV230, Afghanistan, 2 September 2006 (14 killed)


I consider it a great honour to be asked to write a foreword to this new book by David.

In the title he asks ‘Who speaks for the dead?’ In our own way, we both do. As a senior engineering inspector with the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, in 32 years I investigated, among others, the Pan Am Boeing 747 at Lockerbie, the Air France Concorde at Paris and the RAF Chinook ZD576 at the Mull of Kintyre. In the Chinook case, David wrote a splendid book Their Greatest Disgrace outlining the successful campaign to clear the deceased pilots of charges of gross negligence. He revealed perhaps the greatest breach of the Military Covenant - the aircraft was not airworthy, and this was concealed from the aircrew and passengers. In many ways, this new book is a follow-up. It cites, through a number of test cases (not all aviation related), over one hundred avoidable deaths of our servicemen.

Experience has made two matters clear to me. First, the root causes of most accidents are usually deficiencies in systems, whether these are systems for management, design, certification, maintenance, and/or operation. Second, those responsible can often find the most convenient approach is to blame the individuals at the coalface, commonly the pilot(s), either obliquely or directly. Often there is little or no evidence to support this (as was the case with Chinook ZD576). Doing so not only offends against natural justice but also defeats the basic purpose of investigating accidents, namely taking action to correct the deficiencies that led to the accident, thereby aiming to prevent recurrence. Fulfilling this duty is an essential component of the Military Covenant.

In this new book, David is both robust and compassionate. It is impeccably researched, revealing further cases of injustice that will fascinate and anger you in equal measure. One salient point he makes struck me - almost all the factors relating to the deaths were predicted and the warnings ignored.

I have known David for 10 years and am keenly aware of the direct assistance he has provided to bereaved families, helping them through the trauma of Coroner’s Inquests and inquiries. He provided vital evidence to the Nimrod XV230 and Hercules XV179 Inquests, and the Nimrod and Mull of Kintyre Reviews, bringing substantial experience as an aircraft engineer and programme manager. His motivation is to help prevent recurrence and ensure natural justice. I consider both to be most noble aims.

Tony Cable

30 November 2017