Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall and Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly killed in Iraq
30 May 06
It is with immense sadness that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed the names of two British soldiers from the Queen's Dragoon Guards killed in Iraq on 28 May 2006.
Lt Tom Mildinhall, Queen's Dragoon Guards
On the evening of Sunday 28 May at 2137hrs local, a British Army patrol from 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry) was attacked by a roadside bomb in the Al Jezaizah district of North West Basra. The explosion hit an armoured Land Rover patrol on a routine task in support of the Iraqi Security Forces. Very sadly the incident killed two members from A Squadron: Troop Leader Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall and Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly.
Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall
Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall was born on 9 July 1979. His father is a retired Army officer and the family home is in Battersea, south London. His younger brother John is currently studying a PhD at Bristol University. Lieutenant Mildinhall was educated at Monkton Combe school in Bath where he excelled at rowing.
After studying Artificial Intelligence & Computer Sciences at Durham University and completing his officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in April 2004, Tom was commissioned into the QDG, a reconnaissance regiment that recruits mostly from Wales and is known as ‘The Welsh Cavalry’. The Regiment is based in Osnabrück, Germany and forms part of 20 Armoured Brigade.
In November 2004 he deployed with the Regiment to Iraq where he assisted in training the fledgling Iraqi Border Police. A difficult task, but one he undertook with considerable enthusiasm and diligence and in which he quickly made a considerable impact. On his return from Iraq he completed a series of demanding training exercises and reinforced his reputation for leading by selfless example. His second Iraq deployment to southern Iraq began one month ago.
His first love was skiing and he was planning an adventurous ski expedition at the end of his tour of duty in Iraq. He was a keen downhill ski instructor and a popular member of the Regimental Ski Team.
He will be missed by those who served along side him for his extremely dry sense of humour and razor sharp wit that often left everyone in stitches. He was a close friend to many in the Officers’ Mess but was also very close to his soldiers.
His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Pittman, said:
“Lieutenant Mildinhall was a thoroughly capable officer. He was intelligent, determined and utterly loyal to both his own command and his superiors. He led by example and his soldiers responded positively, safe in the knowledge he had their best interests at heart. It was typical of his command style to insist he physically led the more dangerous patrols, as he was doing last night when his Troop came under attack and he suffered a fatal injury. He was calm under pressure and I could rely upon him to deliver results in the complex operational environment of Iraq.
“He was a true enthusiast and it was uplifting to be in his company. Regardless of circumstance he always viewed the glass as half full. His love of life, sharp wit and ability to laugh at himself coupled with his enduring commitment to the team were qualities that endeared him to us all.
“He loved his time in the Army and was happiest when serving with his Regiment and we all benefited from his presence. With his passing, 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards has lost a truly promising officer. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends.”
Tom's parents - his father, Lt Col (Retd) Colin Mildinhall formerly of the Royal Engineers and his mother, Susan, a speech and language therapist - have released the following statement:
"This is an ordeal we would not wish any mother and father to endure. For those parents who have lost sons and daughters in this way, we are now with them. For those who will have to go through this in the future; we are here. We share the pain of the soldiers and the families of the others injured and killed in this incident.
"We have lost a beautiful, talented and loving son for ever. Our world is in pieces and our country has again lost one of its best. Our hope is that in time our family may reassemble those pieces into some form of normality.
"Tom achieved an immense amount in his life. He rowed at school and at Durham University and skied with us from an early age. He talked proudly of his Regiment and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow soldiers.
"We are very grateful for the support of our friends, Tom’s friends and colleagues from school and university and also for the outstanding help we are receiving from the Army."
L Cpl Paul Farrelly, Queen's Dragoon Guards
Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly
Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly, known as ‘Fas’, was born on 13 August 1978 and grew up in Runcorn, near Liverpool. He moved to Rhyl when he was about 16-years-old and enlisted into the Army in March 2002. He has two younger sisters Sadie and Laura, and a younger brother Liam. His mother lives in Anglesey and his father in Cheltenham.
Paul Farrelly joined the Queen's Dragoon Guards after completing his basic training at the Army Training Regiment in Winchester, where he was judged top recruit.
Lance Corporal Farrelly was serving on his third Iraq deployment with the QDG, which had begun one month ago. He first served in Iraq during the initial combat operations between February and May 2003. He completed his second six month tour in April 2005 when the Regiment was deployed to assist in training the Iraqi Security Forces.
Paul was a keen footballer and a regular member of the Regimental 1st XI. His love of the game was such that even when injured he still appeared at all the matches and was a staunch supporter of the team. He was an all-round sportsman and never happier than with a ball or bat.
He will be remembered as a happy, jovial soldier as well as a dedicated family man. He was devoted to his wife and three young children and was adamant that family came first above all things.
Paul's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Pittman, said of him:
“Lance Corporal Farrelly was widely acknowledged as one of the most competent Lance Corporals in the Regiment. He was knowledgeable, quick-thinking and tough. He stood out amongst his peers as a natural leader; level-headed and utterly dependable. His wealth of experience, combined with his ability to identify quickly the critical path meant his contribution was way beyond that commensurate with his rank. He was marked out for early promotion. He set and demanded the highest standards, but he also knew it was his responsibility to encourage and coach those less able.
“He embodied much of what is best about soldiers in the British Army; selfless, determined, humorous and steadfast in the face of adversity. Always a committed family man, Paul spoke often and fondly of his wife Natalie, and their three children, Reece, Morgan and Brooke.
“Lance Corporal Farrelly was an outstanding soldier who will be sorely missed by all those who have had the privilege to serve with him. A dearly loved husband and father, our thoughts are now with his wife and family.”
"He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die
that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings.
Freedom lives, and through it, he lives–
in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men."
Captain Jim Philippson killed in Afghanistan
13 Jun 06
It is with immense sadness that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed the name of the British soldier from 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery killed in Afghanistan on Sunday 11 June 2006.
Captain Jim Philippson
UK forces were involved in an incident in Helmand Province, Southern Afghanistan, on the evening of Sunday 11 June 2006 during which a mobile patrol was engaged in a firefight against suspected Taliban forces. Sadly as a result of this engagement Captain Jim Philippson was killed and two other soldiers seriously injured. Our thoughts and sympathies are with their families and friends at this difficult time.
Captain Jim Philippson, 29, from St Albans in Hertfordshire,
completed his further education at Plymouth University. He joined the Army in January 2001 and, after his course at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery later that year.
He then undertook his Young Officers’ course at the Artillery Centre, Larkhill. From the outset his sharp intellect, determination, positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm stood out and he was selected for a posting to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. He relished the challenge of demanding commando selection where his physical stamina was more than matched by his mental robustness.
Not only was he successful but he led the way. Having settled into the Regiment his confident, yet self-effacing, approach had a real impact. His unique combination of fierce professionalism, relaxed style of command and sense of fun won him the respect and loyalty of his soldiers and peers. He displayed all of these qualities in the high pressure operational environment of Iraq but also on exercises in Norway, USA and Cyprus. Moreover, he was always looking to get involved; throwing himself wholeheartedly into his sport and social life with the same passion as his work.
Having concluded his tour with 29 Commando Regiment, Capt Philippson was keen to undertake the challenge of service with 7
Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and after a six month deployment to the Falkland Islands joined the Regiment in February 2006 as it prepared for deployment to Afghanistan.
Very soon he found himself a pivotal member of the team with the role of training and mentoring the Afghan National Army. Here his maturity, patience, technical skill as an instructor and responsiveness was an example as much to his colleagues as to his Afghan counterparts who warmed quickly to his inherent leadership and charisma. He was a man that wanted to make a difference, and he did.
Capt Philippson served only a short time with 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery but his influence on it and 29 Commando Regiment previously was tremendous. A genuine character who was full of life and humour yet with a highly committed edge, he will be remembered as a gifted, considerate and popular officer who would always go that extra mile for his soldiers and his friends. He will be sadly missed by everyone that that knew him.
Lieutenant Colonel David Hammond, his Commanding Officer, said:
"Jim was a top quality officer in the best traditions of the Regiment and the British Army. Those around him were influenced not only by his commitment, passion and drive but also his enthusiasm and ready wit. A gifted commander he had the self-confidence of an assured professional yet was also modest and willing to learn.
"All of this earned him the respect of all those he touched. The commitment he showed to his task in Afghanistan and every challenge he undertook was an inspiration.
"He was a rising star in every sense who had a huge amount to offer. He is a tremendous loss and our thoughts are with his family and many friends at this very difficult time."
Following the incident Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne issued this statement:
"I wish to express my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured in this attack. My thoughts are with them and those troops continuing their difficult task of helping to ensure Afghanistan remains secure."
The 2,500th member of the U.S. armed forces killed since the war in Iraq began is a Marine from California, the Defense Department announced today.
Cpl. Michael Estrella, of Hemet, was killed June 14 during combat operations in Anbar Province, Iraq, the Defense Department said.
2nd Lt. Binford Strickland, spokesman for the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where Estrella’s unit is based, said that Estrella is the 2,500th military member killed since the invasion of Iraq. Casualty officials at Marines Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., confirmed Strickland’s statement.
A field radio operator by military specialty, Estrella was assigned to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, at the time of his death. His unit has been in Iraq since March.
Estrella was on his second combat deployment when he was killed. He was with 3/3 when it deployed to Afghanistan in November 2005 and returned to Hawaii in June 2005, Strickland said.
The U.S. suffered its 2,000th casualty in late October, when statistical data showed that more than half of the fallen were under age 25.
Estrella, at 20, had already earned the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Medal, Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal at the time of his death. Stickland said a recommendation to award him the Purple Heart has also been submitted, but it has not yet made it through the administrative process of being approved.
The bodies of two American soldiers reported missing in Iraq since Friday have been found south of Baghdad and showed signs of "barbaric torture," a senior Iraqi military official said Tuesday. But the American military said it could not verify that report.
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed said the bodies of 23-year-old Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca of Houston, and 25-year-old Army Pfc. Thomas Lowell Tucker of Madras, Ore., were found on a street near a power plant in the town of Youssifiyah.
Corporal Peter Thorpe and Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi killed in Afghanistan
3 Jul 06
It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Corporal Peter Thorpe and Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi in Afghanistan on 1 July 2006.
Corporal Peter Thorpe
Corporal Thorpe and Lance Corporal Hashmi, from the 3rd Para Battlegroup, were killed following an incident in Sangin, Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan. Four other personnel were injured. Their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. Next of kin have now been informed.
Corporal Peter Thorpe
Corporal Peter Thorpe, Royal Signals, was born on 3 January 1979 and lived in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. Corporal Thorpe joined the Army in August 1995 as an apprentice tradesman at Harrogate and went on to complete his communications training at the Royal School of Signals at Blandford, Dorset. He was then posted to 216 Parachute Signal Squadron in the 5th Airborne Brigade.
There he went on to successfully qualify as a military parachutist, fully embraced his role as an airborne communicator and completed his first tour of Afghanistan in 2001. He was then posted on a two-year tour to Northern Ireland. Subsequently, returning to the UK in January 2006 to prepare for his second operational tour in Afghanistan.
Corporal Thorpe was a keen sportsman, turning his hand to a wide variety of pursuits, as well as being an Army Physical Training Instructor. He was a well-respected member of the Squadron whose outstanding trade and soldiering skills combined with his great sense of humour endeared him to all.
His Commanding Officer said
"Corporal Thorpe was a highly motivated, talented and tremendously popular soldier who constantly inspired those around him whatever the situation. A gifted instructor, he had acquired a huge range of military skills and qualifications and was happiest when passing on this knowledge.
"He had recently been selected for promotion to Sergeant and was keen to work in an Army Training Regiment. He undertook his role as a patrol commander with absolute professionalism in support of the 3 PARA Battlegroup in the demanding environment of Afghanistan. An outstanding man, his sad loss and that of Lance Corporal Hashmi is felt by us all."
Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, of the Intelligence Corps, was attached to the Royal Signals. Lance Corporal Hashmi was born on the 23rd April 1982 and lived in Birmingham.
Lance Corporal Hashmi joined the Army in June 2004 and completed his trade training at the Army Training Centre Winchester and his intelligence training at Chicksands, Bedfordshire. He was posted to the Royal Signals in January 2006 and immediately made his mark on the Troop. His extraordinary determination, sense of duty and desire to learn was infectious and he threw himself into preparations for his deployment to Afghanistan.
His Commanding Officer, said
"Enthusiastic, confident and immensely popular, Lance Corporal Hashmi displayed all the qualities of a first class soldier. His enthusiasm for the role he had been given was simply outstanding. He was brimming with confidence and hugely keen to take part in all the training prior to the operation.
"Once deployed in Helmand Province, his skills proved vital in support of the 3 PARA Battlegroup, providing protection for his comrades in the highly demanding working conditions of Southern Afghanistan. A fine young man, his sad loss and that of Corporal Thorpe will be felt by us all."
On learning of the incident Defence Secretary Des Browne said:
"My thoughts are with the family and friends of those killed in the attack against UK troops in Afghanistan. Our troops are in Afghanistan to help the Afghans rebuild their country. That means facing down the Taliban, who will go to any lengths to oppose progress. In doing this job we lost two of our troops yesterday and I am greatly saddened by this."
Lance Corporal Hashmi and Corporal Thorpe will be sadly missed by all those who served with them and our thoughts are with their families at this difficult time.
British soldier killed in Afghanistan on 5 July 2006
5 Jul 06
It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan today, Wednesday 5 July 2006.
During a patrol in Sangin town, members of the 3 Para Battle Group were attacked by suspected Taleban forces. We can confirm that during the incident a British soldier has been killed.
We are currently in the process of informing next of kin and cannot comment further until that process is complete.
Private Damien Jackson killed in Afghanistan
6 Jul 06
It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Private Damien Raymond Jackson in Afghanistan on 5 July 2006.
Private Damien Jackson
Private Jackson, from The 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, died as a result of injuries sustained during a firefight with Taliban forces at approximately 1400 hours local time in Sangin, central Helmand Province. The incident occurred during a security patrol to clear a Helicopter landing site.
Private Damien Raymond Jackson
Private Damien Raymond Jackson was born on 9 July 1986. He lived in South Shields, Tyne and Wear and joined the Army in November 2003, completing his basic training at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick, North Yorkshire. An enthusiastic, robust and physically fit Paratrooper, Pte Jackson passed his Combat Infantry Course (PARA) Training and Pre-Parachute Selection course (P Company) with flying colours. In June 2004 he joined A Company, The 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.
During his time with A Company, Private Jackson completed several overseas exercises and two operational deployments. In January 2005 he deployed to Canada with the company to complete Exercise Frozen Star and in March 2006 deployed to Oman on Exercise Desert Eagle to conduct pre-Afghanistan deployment training. Pte Jackson showed typical fortitude and determination to recover quickly from an injury whilst conducting a Long Range Parachute Insertion on Exercise Frozen Star.
Private Jackson had also completed two successful operational tours with the Battalion, firstly to Northern Ireland in June 2004 and, secondly, to Basrah Province, Iraq. Afghanistan was Private Jackson’s third operational tour with the Regiment. An extremely experienced and reliable Paratrooper, Pte Jackson was also a team medic and had shown a keen interest in becoming a combat medic. He had also been recommended for promotion to Lance Corporal.
A keen football fan and Sunderland AFC fanatic, Pte Jackson made every effort to return home to catch as many matches as he could at the Stadium of Light, where he was a season ticket holder. Pte Jackson also enjoyed athletics and ran for his local athletics club, the South Shields Mariners, both before joining the Army and whilst at home on leave. He was particularly proficient at 400m and 800m running.
Popular, hard working and pro-active Pte Jackson was an extremely competent and reliable Paratrooper. His strength of character and level-headedness helped him maintain a focused and professional attitude to any task he was given and his infectious sense of humour allowed him to conduct his duties always to the best of his abilities and always with a smile.
Private Damien Jackson
Pte Jackson’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart J C Tootal, said of him:
"Private Damien Jackson was an excellent young soldier who represented the very best of what being a paratrooper is all about. Extremely popular and a superb sportsman, he was also highly professional and always took care of those around him.
"Having joined the Regiment in 2004, Damien quickly made his mark within the Battalion and served in numerous theatres including Northern Ireland and Iraq. Damien died doing the job he loved and fighting to protect his fellow paratroopers.
"One of the very best in all respects, he will be sadly missed by all his comrades in 3 PARA and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."
Above all Pte Jackson was a friend to all, a great character and was full of life. He was an extremely popular member of 3 PARA and he will be sorely missed by all who were privileged to serve alongside him. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time. He will never be forgotten.
Pte Jackson's father, Daniel, gave the following tribute to his son:
"I wish everyone to know just how extremely proud I am of my son Damien – of all that he has achieved in his lifetime and of the fact that he died, when duty called, protecting others, in the service of his country.
"A fine, upstanding South Shields lad, Damien was immensely proud to have achieved his ultimate ambition in becoming a member of the finest regiment in the British Army.
"He will be missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew him. My family and I are desolated at this news but we will strive to seek inspiration from the example of his courage.
"We fully support the British Army in Afghanistan whilst in no way supporting or condoning a government policy which has placed our young men and women in such dreadful danger. We now ask everyone to allow us the opportunity to share our grief in peace. I thank you all."
On learning of Pte Jackson's death Defence Secretary Des Browne said:
"I was greatly saddened to hear that one of our courageous soldiers was killed whilst on a patrol in Northern Helmand this morning. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. He, like all our troops in Afghanistan, was bringing security and stability to Helmand so that the Afghan people can rebuild their country after decades of war and the tyranny of the Taliban."
Corporal John Cosby killed in Iraq
17 Jul 06
It is with immense sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Corporal John Johnston Cosby in Iraq on Sunday 16 July 2006.
Corporal John Cosby
Corporal Cosby, 1st Battalion The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry (1DDLI), died as a result of gunshot wounds following an operation by British Forces to apprehend a key terrorist leader and accomplice in a suburb of North Basra. During the course of the operation British military personnel came under small arms fire and two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds. Sadly, Corporal Cosby subsequently died as a result of his injuries.
Corporal John Cosby was born in Belfast on 12 April 1978 and lived there until he was seven years old. His family moved to Exeter in 1985 where he spent his early years before joining 1DDLI in 1998.
He started his military career as a rifleman in an Armoured Infantry platoon in Warminster before moving to London with the Battalion for ceremonial duties. During this time he served on a six month tour of South Armagh after which he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
When the Battalion was posted to Ballykinler, Northern Ireland, Corporal Cosby was selected from the top soldiers in the Battalion to attempt selection for the Close Observation Platoon (COP). He passed the course with flying colours and went on to spend two years as second in command of a four man team on operations in the Province. He excelled in this role and it soon became obvious that he was ready to attend the Section Commanders’ Battle Course in order to earn promotion to full Corporal. A capable and natural junior commander, he gained a rare Instructor’s Grade Pass; a great accolade, as anybody who has done this exceptionally demanding course will know. On return to the Battalion he joined the Reconnaissance Platoon, a post reserved for the top percentage of infantry soldiers, this time achieving a Distinction on his gunnery course.
Whilst in Iraq, Corporal Cosby’s experience, enthusiasm and style made him an obvious choice to be a team commander in the Brigade Surveillance Company. He excelled on the second gruelling Covert Surveillance Course and became well respected by instructors, superiors and subordinates alike. Over recent months he showed uncompromising professionalism in all aspects of his work, rising naturally to the challenges that the demanding operational theatre poses. 1st Battalion The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, based in Catterick, North Yorkshire, is currently three months into a six-and-a-half month tour of Iraq as part of 20th Armoured Brigade.
Corporal Cosby, known as George to his friends, was held in great affection by all who worked with him and those that knew him. He had a relaxed confidence and a manner that was immediately appealing. ‘Mateship’ was important to him and the value in which he held his friends was reciprocated with equal strength. He valued the responsibility he felt for his peers and his subordinates more than his own well-being. Early on in the tour he said to a fellow team commander, "as long as my team goes home safely and my friends go home safely, my job is done".
John was very compassionate and there was something infectious in him that people couldn’t help but like: his determination, his awkward sitting style, his scruffy appearance, his inability to tan even in the desert, his honesty, his lack of sporting prowess, the constantly burning cigarette, the regular mickey-taking of himself and others, his sharp, intelligent wit, his professionalism and his generosity.
"John’s sense of humour was perhaps his most memorable characteristic. His Northern Irish wit meant that a clever observation or delightfully unexpected turn of phrase was never far below the surface. He always saw the lighter side of a situation; he instinctively understood that humour is a force multiplier."
"It is with the deepest regret that I have to announce the death of Corporal John Cosby. He died this morning, 16 July 2006, as a result of gunshot wounds received as he and his team were engaged by militia gunmen during an operation in Basra City.
"Corporal Cosby and his team were part of the isolation force of a major arrest operation. Following the operation a terrorist who has masterminded many lethal attacks on Multi National Forces was detained and a detailed search of the premises was underway.
"It was at this point that a number of gunmen ambushed Corporal Cosby’s team. In the ensuing fire fight Corporal Cosby was fatally wounded. He was evacuated by helicopter but died soon after reaching the Field Hospital.
"Corporal Cosby, known to all as George (or more commonly as ‘Gorgeous’ George), was a monumental Battalion personality. An Ulsterman in a West Country Regiment he was always going to stand out, but he did so for all the right reasons. First and foremost he was an infantry Junior Non-Commissioned Officer in the finest tradition.
"A long term member of the Reconnaissance Platoon he was tough, determined and a talented low-level tactician. He was no spring chicken but pure willpower and an absolute commitment meant he kept up with the very best.
"John’s sense of humour was perhaps his most memorable characteristic. His Northern Irish wit meant that a clever observation or delightfully unexpected turn of phrase was never far below the surface. He always saw the lighter side of a situation; he instinctively understood that humour is a force multiplier.
"In Iraq Corporal Cosby was a Team Commander with the Brigade Surveillance Company. Hand selected for the task, put through the most demanding selection and trained in specialist techniques, his Company have consistently been in the vanguard of the most important operations so far this deployment.
"It was on such an operation that he was fatally wounded. From initial reports, it is abundantly clear that John was doing his job superbly. He was leading from the front, he was putting the success of the mission and the safety of his men before his own, just as we would have expected from such a well loved and respected soldier.
"John was unmarried. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family, particularly his mother and sister to whom he was very close. He will be sorely missed by the Battalion and the wider Regimental family."
Corporal Cosby’s mother Jean has issued the following statement on behalf of his family:
"Johnston was a great and loving family man. He was an amazing son, brother, uncle and nephew. His sense of humour and bubbly personality will be missed by all of his family and everyone who knew him. His memory will live in all our hearts forever."
The family have asked that its privacy be respected at this tragic and difficult time.
The Reverend His Honour Major Christopher Lea, who has died aged 88, fulfilled every Victorian father's traditional hope that his younger sons would join the Army, the Law or the Church by entering all three professions.
Lea made his mark as a soldier by earning an MC in the first commando raid of the Second World War, which successfully blew up an Italian bridge. After being captured he read Law in prison camp, which led to his being called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 1948. He practised as a barrister before being becoming a metropolitan magistrate and later a circuit judge. Then, on retiring from the bench, he was ordained priest, and became a much-loved assistant curate at Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire, for the remaining years of his life.
Christopher Gerald Lea was born at Kidderminster, Worcestershire, on November 27 1917. Christoph, as he was known, went to Charterhouse and Sandhurst, where he hoped to hunt four days a week like his elder brother, the future Lieutenant-General Sir George Lea; but he found that horses were being replaced by armoured vehicles.
Commissioned into the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers, Lea was sent to France on the outbreak of war, and wrote home that he was getting too much food and drink, though not enough exercise, and asking for books on Roman law.
After receiving a shrapnel wound in the Dunkirk retreat, Lea volunteered to be one of the first paratroops with X Troop, II Commando, on an unspecified mission. It was only when Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, Bt, Chief of Combined Operations, shook hands with each man, saluted, and was heard to say, "It's a pity, it's a pity", that they realised how dangerous the operation would be. They were to blow up a freshwater aqueduct of small importance near the village of Calitri, in the Tragino valley of southern Italy. The object was to test the RAF's skill; the men were then to escape 60 miles to a submarine that was supposed to wait at the coast. The demolition experts and much of the explosive material landed in the wrong place when the 35 men made their jumps from Whitley bombers, and the bridge turned out to be made of concrete instead of brick.
Bemused locals were enrolled to help carry the remaining explosives. One of them was a local stationmaster who protested that he would need a certificate to explain his lateness for work. "Yes, well, that will be quite all right," replied Lea. "I will sign a certificate if you produce it for me." Afterwards he could not recall whether he signed any paper, though he remembered that the stationmaster proved to be a good porter.
Just after midnight the bridge blew up - to hearty British cheers. But as the paratroops split into three parties and set off for their rendezvous, they found themselves sliding back in the mud and melting snow on the steep hills. By the third day, Lea had decided that his group would have to use a road if they were to reach their rendezvous. Drawing his pistol, he led them across a bridge in an eerie silence to find a motley group of soldiers, carabinieri, and male and female peasants emerging from hedges on either side armed with pitchforks, ancient muskets and rifles. The patrol's only option seemed to be to open fire; which would have meant civilian casualties. When a lance-corporal asked whether to shoot, Lea replied "No".
It was a painful decision, not least since it meant a humiliating surrender to a rabble. However, as Lea sat disconsolately afterwards in a barn under arrest, he was grateful to two lance-corporals who settled down on either side to say: "We think you made the right decision, sir."
Ten months after their capture the paratroops were in a prison camp at Sulmona, which was said to be escape-proof because it had three lines of barbed wire fencing and was 600 miles from the Swiss border. "You know, it's high time we made some effort to get out," Lea told his X troop comrade Tony Deane-Drummond.
They pretended to be two Italian electricians and planned to climb a ladder to replace a lamp by one fence, and then to scramble over it and two others. Their first attempt had to be abandoned because two loitering carabinieri were in their way.
On the second, they climbed over a wall into the NCOs' compound, only to be pounced on by guards. The automatic punishment was 21 days' solitary confinement, but all the cells were full; so they were sent back to their compound until there was room, giving them a chance to try again.
The next night the pair collected their specially made ladder, passed the guardroom and sentries and crossed the football pitch to the fences. Deane-Drummond was climbing up when a sentry shouted. He confidently called out Lampa and started to unscrew the light. But there was still light from the stars when it went out, and they were pulling up the ladder when a sentry ran from his box.
As Lea shouted that he should throw away the ladder, Deane-Drummond jumped down to the ground outside the camp with a graze from a bullet. Unaware that Lea had been hit in the groin by the same shot, he got away and, after being captured and then escaping again from a hospital, reached the Swiss border. Bleeding badly, Lea was taken to the camp hospital at the insistence of Dr Patrick Steptoe, who later became an in vitro specialist.
After ending the war in a German PoW camp, Lea served in the Indonesian campaign and in Austria before coming out of the Army, with a mention in dispatches, in 1948.
Following his call to the Bar he joined chambers at 1 Paper Buildings, beginning a common law practice, amid strong competition from other ex-servicemen starting late. He started to prosecute for the police in the lower courts, proving a modest, fair-minded advocate; he once pressed a case against a driver who had run away from a car crash, but was pursued by a witness, the runner Christopher Brasher.
In 1952 Lea married Susan Dorrien-Smith, with whom he was to have two sons and two daughters, one of whom later died.
To make ends meet, he became a metropolitan magistrate, deputy chairman of Berkshire quarter sessions and eventually a circuit judge. Demonstrating a mastery of the quizzical eyebrow, he left no offender unaware of the seriousness of his offence, but was never unduly harsh; he was happiest overseeing adoptions.
Lea had already been a churchwarden and a member of his parochial church council for some years when he retired from the bench in 1992. After being ordained in 1993, he settled down happily as an assistant curate at Stratfield Mortimer in Berkshire, where he put the Eucharist at the centre of his ministry until his death on June 1. Retaining his deprecatory sense of humour, he preached clear, thoughtful sermons, reflecting theological reading; he put his heart into every task, whether it was deanery business, visiting the sick or mowing the grass at the old church on the edge of the village where he had lived for 50 years.
Not the least of his pleasures was officiating, aged 80, at the marriage of his 40-year-old son and at the christening of his grandchildren.
Brigadier David Nicholls, who has died aged 57, combined a 30-year career in the Royal Marines with being the leading military mountaineer of his generation.
In 1972 Nicholls was in Oman with the lead platoon of A Company, Northern Frontier Regiment, when it was caught in open ground by insurgents fighting the Sultan's Armed Forces. Corporal Mahmood, next to Nicholls, was cut down by a burst of machine-gun fire as the rest of the platoon threw themselves down on the floor of the wadi, which "was as hard as a billiard table".
Realising that the rim of the wadi would be essential to winning the fight, he zigzagged across the 300 yards to its edge, shouting in Arabic for his men to follow. But on gaining the ridge he looked back to see that his troops were far too concerned with recovering Mahmood's body.
Armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and hand grenades, he fought a one-man battle among the rocks, distracting about 20 guerrillas from attacking his exposed company, and denying the enemy use of the ridge for some two hours while the company commander called down artillery and mortar fire. Under this cover the company slowly advanced to join him.
A subsequent search of caves in the wadi led to the recovery of large quantities of ammunition which were being smuggled to the insurgents. Helicopters flew out six wounded government troops, and Nicholls descended from the mountains on foot with the remainder the had a swim off the coast before returning to headquarters.
David Vernon Nicholls was born on February 23 1949, a twin son of Captain G H Nicholls, RN, who had been assistant secretary to Earl Mountbatten of Burma in India. Young David was educated at Ellesmere College and joined the Royal Marines in 1967 while his twin, Mark, who was educated at Marlborough, became a geologist.
Nicholls commanded 45 Commando from 1991 to 1994 on its two deployments to Norway and to Belize. Next he became senior UK staff officer of the Anglo-French Rapid Reaction Force in Bosnia; it was his plan for co-ordinated land and air operations in July 1995 which forced the capitulation of the Bosnian Serbs and the peace accord at Dayton, Ohio.
From 1996 to 1998 Nicholls commanded the Commando training centre at Lympstone, Devon. There the experience he had gained in Oman, Northern Ireland, Central America and the Falklands War, plus his expertise as a mountaineer and well-honed leadership qualities, gave him an unequalled stature.
His final Royal Marines appointment was in 1999 as Commander, British Forces, Falkland Islands, where the Mount Pleasant base has the world's longest corridor linking accommodation and working areas. This half-mile passage was known to his troops as "Death Star Corridor" until Nicholls called in a family friend, the artist Professor Elaine Shemilt who, with colleagues and students from Dundee University, turned it into an attractive, warm thoroughfare now known as the Millennium Corridor. Subsequently Nicholls organised an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, "Traces of Conflict", about the group's visit to the Falklands some 20 years after the war.
Nicholls's love of mountaineering began at school, where he founded a climbing club; he climbed in New Zealand, the Himalayas, the Alps and Dolomites, making many first ascents and becoming an expert in mountain and Arctic warfare. He failed in an attempt on the summit of Everest in 1988 because of worsening weather.
On retiring Nicholls devoted his energy to Project Atlantis, based in Dundee, a research and consultancy group concerned with environmental protection and education.
In 2001 he proposed to the British Schools Exploring Society that he should lead an expedition for gap-year students called "Footsteps of Shackleton." Thanks in no small part to the good relations which Nicholls enjoyed with Chilean and British military authorities, he took eight leaders and 21 young explorers for three months to remote parts of southern Chile, the Falklands and South Georgia two years later. A second, smaller expedition to South Georgia took place in 2005; and earlier this year Nicholls was voted chairman of the the society's expeditions committee.
Meanwhile Nicholls had founded the South Georgia Heritage Trust, and raised funds for Norwegian volunteers to renovate the historically important manager's house at the Husvik whaling station, which scientists and expeditions now use as a base. In July he took responsibility for the South Georgia museum and the Discovery House visitor centre on South Georgia. His most ambitious project was the extermination of rats on the archipelago in order to allow threatened bird species to breed again.
Nicholls was personable and charming, though sometimes reserved and rather serious. While others stretched out for ease when they reached mountain huts, he would start cleaning before he would allow himself to relax.
He recently bought West Lights lighthouse at Tayport, Fife, and had started to restore it with his stepson, when he was found dead at his door on July 4 by his architect.
David Nicholls married Deirdre Russell (née Burns) in 1982. They divorced in 2001, and she survives him with their daughter and his stepson.
Corporal Matthew Cornish of 1 LI killed in Iraq
1 Aug 06
It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Corporal Matthew Cornish, 29, of 1st Battalion The Light Infantry (1 LI) in Iraq today, Tuesday 1 August 2006.
Corporal Matthew Cornish, 1st Battalion The Light Infantry.
Corporal Cornish died at approximately 0300hrs on Tuesday morning as a result of wounds sustained in a mortar attack on a Multi National Force base in Basra City. Corporal Cornish sustained serious injuries from the explosion and was evacuated by helicopter to the Field Hospital at Shaibah Logistics Base where sadly he subsequently died from his injuries.
Corporal Matthew Cornish was born on 20 July 1977 and grew up in Yorkshire. He enlisted into the Army in Leeds and started his career in Cyprus. An impressive succession of postings followed, including operational deployments to Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, and to Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
He was serving in Iraq with The Light Infantry, normally based in Paderborn, Germany, and was currently three months into a six-and-a-half month tour as part of 20th Armoured Brigade.
Corporal Cornish, or ‘Pastie’, as he was destined to be nick-named, was the sort of character that thrives in the Army. As a young soldier he would take great pleasure in bringing his Army mates home, where he knew they would get a friendly grilling from his Mother, who was a keen Greenpeace supporter.
He was an ‘anti-tanker’, trained in the MILAN weapon system, and a key member of that platoon. Over the last six months in particular, people were starting to notice him, and he was regarded by many as a ‘safe pair of hands’. He had a good eye for detail and was always willing to stand up for his soldiers, as was his manner.
Matthew developed into a trusted and respected Junior Non-Commissioned Officer who was liked by all who met him. In 2006, in Iraq for a third time, his key role was the task of navigating and leading his pair of Warrior Armoured Vehicles around Basra. Within two weeks he knew the city intimately. On the night of his death he had led his Company Commander around some of Basra’s most notorious districts in the pitch dark, with little reference to a map, and with an assurance that was a credit to him.
The Battalion is much the poorer for his loss.
"Matthew was a great soldier, a fine friend and a marvellous husband and father. He will be remembered for his heart and his great character."
Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Bowron
His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Bowron, said:
"It is with the deepest regret that I have to announce the death of Corporal Matthew Cornish. Matthew was a great soldier, a fine friend and a marvellous husband and father. He will be remembered for his heart and his great character.
"As an attached member B Company, he made it a richer place for his presence. And as a Fire Support soldier, he clearly added to the strength of the Company in a difficult location.
"The care of his vehicles was first class and they were always in excellent working order – an indication of the sort of chap he was. He was very much his own man, not a typical Non-Commissioned Officer – he followed his own course, and a lot of the time he was absolutely right.
"His typical Yorkshire manner helped pick him out as one of the 'characters' of B Company. 'Pastie' could always be relied upon to give his opinion on any subject, whether it was wanted or not. He had begun to develop an unnerving ability to know what was going to be asked of him before his boss knew himself. And lately he had started rebuilding parts of the camp in Basra without asking permission from anyone at all. This in particular was beginning to drive his Company Serjeant Major to distraction – principally as his ideas were all thoroughly useful.
"A Yorkshireman through-and-through and an enthusiastic follower of Leeds Rhinos Rugby League, he was constantly teased for his inexplicable loyalty to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. His true passion, though, was for his family. His wife Abby, daughter Libby, and son Ethan, were what lay closest to his heart – the rest was irrelevant. He spoke of them often, and loved them dearly.
"Corporal Cornish died on Minden Day, when the Light Infantry recalls its Battle Honour by the wearing of white roses. For his friends and colleagues the wearing of the Yorkshire rose will in future have added poignancy."
On learning of the incident, on the same day as three British Soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Des Browne said:
"This morning’s news from Afghanistan and Iraq is very sad. I know I speak for everyone when I say that our thoughts are with the families and friends of the soldiers who were killed and injured.
"Those responsible for the attacks on our soldiers in Northern Helmand do not want to see security and prosperity brought to the local people. We cannot allow them to succeed, and we remain committed to seeing through our part in this vital international effort.
"Nor will the sad death of a British soldier in Basra deflect our support to the elected Government in Iraq. In both Iraq and Afghanistan our troops are doing a tough job magnificently well. Their courage and commitment demands nothing but admiration."