A rifle has been missing from a British army base for more than a year.
The SA80 A2 standard-issue weapon vanished from Alanbrooke barracks in North Yorkshire over Christmas 2011.
It was the home of 4th Regiment Royal Artillery but most of the troops were on festive leave at the time.
A skeleton rear party was guarding the base at Topcliffe while they were away.
A source said the gun mysteriously went missing from the guardroom at the camp but there was no break in.
They said: “It looks like a case of the lads getting slack and not checking the armoury when they take over their shift.
“A lot of soldiers got interviewed and for weeks after cars were getting searched leaving camp.”
The SA80 rifles can fire 30 rounds in five seconds and are lethal from a distance of more than a kilometre.
4 Royal Artillery have been on a tour of duty in Afghanistan since September.
A military commentator said: “Rifles do go missing from military premises – but when they’ve been lost for more than a year it becomes rather embarrassing.”
An FOI release in 2011 revealed that over 300 rifles, pistols and machine guns had been stolen or lost from British Army bases since 2006.
They included 52 rifles, 58 pistols and four machine guns that were been stolen. Just 39 of the weapons were recovered.
The firearms were either ‘lost’ by soldiers or illegally sold onto the black market – many ending up in the hands of the underworld and Northern Ireland extremists.
An MoD spokesman said: “This is subject to an ongoing police investigation.
“We take our duty to safeguard ammunition and weapons extremely seriously and a vigorous control regime is in place.
“We conduct thorough investigations to learn lessons from any incident and action is taken where necessary.”