Part time soldiers failed to inform the coastguard that they were exercising in Moray at the weekend – and sparked the launch of the Buckie lifeboat.
A full-scale emergency was launched when a training exercise involving Territorial Army troops included the release of flares at the mouth of the Spey.
Aberdeen Coastguard received a series of calls from concerned members of the public at 9am on Sunday after they spotted what they took to be emergency flares around a mile west of Kingston.
With no advance warning having been given by the Army the Coastguard assumed that the flares were being launched from a vessel in trouble on the Moray Firth – and ordered the Buckie Lifeboat to sea.
A spokesman for the coastguard service said: “It was just to the west of the river at around 9am in the morning.
“We had a Buckie coastguard team and lifeboat activated – but as it turned out the flares were being fired from land.
“It was handheld flares but the problem is that it could have been a vessel in distress – if the TA had told somebody it would not have been a problem.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed that they had been informed of the exercise, adding: “We were well aware – we certainly had been advised it was a training exercise, we do not know why the coastguard were not informed.”
Last night a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We take the requirement to liaise with local authorities and emergency services when planning training exercises very seriously.
“In this case there seems to have been a regrettable breakdown in communication and we will investigate what happened to make sure it does not happen again in the future.”