SAS soldiers regularly flouted rules requiring them to wear safety restraints on combat helicopter flights, an inquest heard.

Investigations into the 2007 Puma crash in Iraq that killed Sgt John Battersby and Tpr Lee Fitzsimmons found that soldiers and aircrew involved in the ill-fated mission had not been given an official letter of dispensation to do without seat restraints - as regulation required.

In evidence, the inquest heard that those soldiers and aircrew only ever worked under an assumption that dispensation was in place given the nature of the operations they were tasked to.

Earlier evidence outlined how the restraints did not fit around the kit the soldiers carried and hampered the fast exits they needed to make.

Accounts of the crash itself told how badly the soldiers on board the stricken Puma had been thrown around as it struck the ground and flipped onto its side before catching fire.

In evidence, Group Captain Mark Brown, who headed an RAF inquiry into the crash, saluted the subsequent rescue effort made by the surviving soldiers, some of whom were seriously injured themselves.

"I was humbled by the bravery (of these men) in continuing to go back into a burning aircraft - with explosives and ammunition on board," said Group Captain Brown.

Earlier evidence told how the survivors had to be ordered away from their rescue effort seconds before the Puma exploded.

The inquest continues