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Father pays tribute to soldier killed at training range

Telegraph reporters
·1-min read
A soldier has died during a live-fire training exercise
A soldier has died during a live-fire training exercise

A rugby-playing sergeant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was honoured by the Prince of Wales was shot dead accidentally in a late-night firing exercise.

Sergeant Gavin Hillier, 35, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, died during a live-fire session at the Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire.

He is the fourth serviceman to die at the range since 2012. Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police were called to the range at 10.45pm on Thursday after the soldier was fatally wounded. Sgt Hillier’s father said he was “heartbroken and devastated” and that his son died doing the job he loved. Dyfed-Powys Police is leading an investigation.

Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and Ministry of Defence. Yesterday the flags flew at half mast at Cynon Memorial Garden in Aberdare to commemorate Sgt Hillier.

Fellow guardsmen paid tribute to the soldier, described as “a good friend” who was “taken too soon”.

He played rugby for several Welsh teams including Old Tyleryan RFC in Abertillery.

An Army spokesman said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

Sgt Hillier was said to be a “stalwart” who displayed “the highest standards of behaviour” when receiving his Long Service Good Conduct medal from the Prince of Wales in 2019.

His death is the latest of several accidents at Castlemartin. In 2018, an army captain was jailed after Ranger Michael Maguire, 21, was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise in 2012. Two soldiers died in a tank explosion there in 2017.