New head of Army cancels Balkans deployment after paratroopers orgy video

The new head of the British Army has cancelled a Parachute Regiment battalion’s deployment to Bosnia and Kosovo following the release of a video seemingly showing paratroopers participating in an orgy at a military base.

Lieutenant General Andrew Harrison, the colonel commandant of the Paras, wrote in a letter that General Sir Patrick Sanders had “temporarily lost trust” in the unit’s 3rd battalion.

“This afternoon the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Patrick Sanders, took the decision to remove 3 Para off the roster to deploy to Kosovo this summer,” he wrote.

“3 Para has an extraordinary operational reputation in the service of our nation, and every member of it will be devastated by the lost opportunity to serve on operations once again in the Balkans.

“CGS’s decision was based on recent disciplinary incidents on Exercise Swift Response, and in Merville Barracks, the latter which has been in the public domain over the last few weeks.”

“3 Para accept they have temporarily lost the trust of CGS,” the colonel commandant added.

“They will reflect on and where required adjust behaviours and culture that undermines the reputation and operational effectiveness of an exceptional Battalion.

General Sir Patrick Sanders after a live exercise demonstration at Bovington Camp
General Sir Patrick Sanders took over from General Sir Mark Carleton Smith as head of the Army on Monday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“3 Para of course remain ready to defend our nation’s interests at home and abroad at a moment’s notice.”

The deployment, which was to begin in September, would have seen some 300 service members sent to the Balkans.

Sir Patrick wrote in his own letter, obtained by the Telegraph, that the alleged behaviour in the orgy video had been found to be consensual and the Royal Military Police established no crime was committed.

Nonetheless, he said it was “unacceptable, corrosive and detrimental to the Army’s reputation (and) could also be construed to denigrate women”.

“I know that the battalion will respond quickly and restore the reputation that they deserve,” he added.

“My message to the Army is clear: Our licence to operate is founded on trust and confidence and we must hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Sir Patrick took over from General Sir Mark Carleton Smith on Monday, just five days after the Armed Forces minister was forced to apologise over the orgy clip.

James Heappey said on June 8 that he was “sorry and embarrassed” as he condemned the video as “disgraceful”.