The first intelligence suggesting Miss Norgrove’s whereabouts – a few buildings surrounded by a perimeter wall – had come from U. Ministers were last night facing questions over why the SAS were not called in to rescue Linda Norgrove.

Instead of crack British soldiers carrying out the mission, it was handed to the U. military, which has been accused of ‘gung-ho’ tactics.

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And, once more, the staff would watch for those about to keel over. I have fond memories of these tests but there was also tragedy.

In 1981, two candidates died during the selection test.

The first phase, which has been unchanged since the Fifties, is a series of timed marches — an individual effort over demanding terrain in the Brecon Beacons carrying a 45lb rucksack with a rifle and water bottle.

Next comes a three-week map-reading tour of the hills and then Test Week, during which the most gruelling marches are undertaken.

Their fears were echoed by Tory MP Bob Stewart, a former commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia.

He told MPs: ‘Sometimes helicopters are heard from a long way away, so there is warning. commander in Afghanistan, has praised the SAS and Special Boat Service for their ‘world-class counter-terrorism expertise’.

The last winter course claimed the life of a young captain who died in freezing temperatures.

At the weekend came the tragic news that two aspiring SAS troopers died in the blistering heat, and another is fighting for his life after collapsing.

As candidates fell behind me, I would strike up a conversation with them to gauge how they were.

You realised you could be ruining his chance of selection. If you did have a heat casualty, the drill was straightforward.

Yet doubts remain over their suitability for such a sensitive mission involving a British citizen.