Army ‘loses’ top chief as helicopter drops him in wrong field at Salisbury Plain

The Army "lost" a top general after a helicopter dropped him in the wrong field.

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the former director of Special Forces, caused alarm after his chopper landed 600 metres from a planned landing site during a visit to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

A one-star brigadier general was forced to sprint across a muddy field to locate Sir Mark on Tuesday.

His Wildcat helicopter had dropped him off in a darkening field away from the agreed meeting point. Military sources claim the pilot had been given the wrong grid reference.

Frantic WhatsApp messages were exchanged between aides travelling with the decorated general and those in the welcoming party as the visit threatened to unravel, it was claimed.

Personnel waiting for Sir Mark were forced to dash when they saw the helicopter preparing to land in the wrong field.

The Army denied he was lost. It conceded that the chopper did not land in the predesignated area during the final stop on his visit.

A source said: "Those on the ground had a pre-marked HLS (helicopter landing site). But his pilot decided to use an alternative one 600 metres away.

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"If you’ve got the head of the Army coming in to land then you want to greet him.

"He was never missing, everybody knew where the head of the armed forces was."

Some troops saw the funny side with memes posted on social media and in private WhatsApp military groups poking fun at the incident.

One compared his fleeting disappearance to events in Blackadder Goes Forth, the final series of the hit sitcom. The episodes, set in the First World War, featured General Melchett, played by Stephen Fry, and his bungling dogsbody, Captain Darling, played by Tim McInnerny.

One military insider quipped: "Officer can't read map — it's an age-old story."

Another added: "CGS is the type of character who would have been frustrated but I also think that he would have laughed it off."

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