Herald gains Marines' chief fightback scoop

Lane: gave first in-depth interview to Evening Herald

Plymouth’s Evening Herald pulled off a major scoop by securing the first in-depth interview with under-fire Royal Marines chief Brigadier Roger Lane.

The Brigadier, fresh back from Afghanistan, used the newspaper to stoke a row with Whitehall by branding those at the Ministry of Defence who tried to smear him as "cowards who should be ashamed to wear a uniform".

The row had flared following disputed stories in The Daily and Sunday Telegraph claiming that Lane had been sacked.

The Herald had already reported that he was going to be moved to a different post when the Marines’ Afghan tour ended.

The Herald has broken a series of stories about the controversy surrounding the Marines’ operation in Afghanistan. It was the only regional newspaper to send a team to the country and defence reporter James Garnett and picture editor Pete Holdgate – a former Royal Marine photographer – secured a week-long series of exclusives.

In his interview with Garnett, Brigadier Lane criticised the reporting standards of the national press. "The whole story was a completely fictitious one which inevitably had an impact and was extremely damaging to myself," he said.

He said the use of the words "to be sacked" was humiliating to an operational commander and added: "I’ve spent 30 years defending democracy in the military and then had that freedom used against me."

Two weeks ago, Plymouth Sutton MP Linda Gilroy held up a copy of the Evening Herald in the Commons during a debate and praised the paper’s coverage of the Marines’ Afghan campaign.

Herald editor Alan Qualtrough said: "We are quickly building a team of award-winning journalists capable of breaking and writing top-class stories."  Herald journalists won the feature writer and specialist writer of the year categories in the recent Regional Press Awards.

By Jean Morgan

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