The Rifles

Soldiers pay their respects to fallen colleagues at York Minster

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Rifleman Daniel Lee Coffey killed in Iraq Rifleman Daniel Lee Coffey, from 10 Platoon, "C" Company, Second Battalion The Rifles, in Iraq on Tuesday 27 February 2007.

[ Rfn Coffey ]

Rifleman Coffey, 21, died as a result of injuries sustained during a patrol in north Basra. He was returning to his base at the Shatt-Al-Arab Hotel after taking part in a task mentoring the Iraqi Police Service when his patrol was ambushed by two gunmen.  Rifleman Coffey was on top cover providing protection for the patrol vehicles when he came under small arms fire attack from the gunmen. He was immediately evacuated by helicopter to a field hospital and despite the valiant efforts of medical staff and the provision of the best available medical care, he sadly died later in the day from his injuries. Rifleman Daniel Lee Coffey was born on 8 July 1985 in Exeter. He was single and leaves behind a loving family centred around Cullompton and Newcastle. Rfn Coffey enlisted into the army in August 2005. After completing his Combat Infantryman’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick where he won best shot, he was posted to The Devon and Dorset Light Infantry (DDLI) in February 2006.

He deployed with the DDLI to Iraq on Operation TELIC 8 between April and November 2006, operating out of the Shaibah Logistics Base on the outskirts of Basra City. He then almost immediately volunteered to serve in Iraq again, deploying to Basra City North with C Company Second Battalion The Rifles in January 2007. Major Michael Foster-Brown, his Company Commander, said: "Rifleman Coffey was professional, enthusiastic and a reliable soldier with a bright future. He fitted in very quickly, winning everyone’s respect and admiration, not least for his sense of humour and his enthusiasm for soldiering. He greatly enjoyed his new friendships in the Second Battalion The Rifles and he had asked for a permanent transfer to the battalion and wanted to come with the Company to Ballykinler. I fully supported his request - I told him we were always happy to have good men. "He was very fond of his family and used to delight in showing pictures on his mobile phone, in particular the newest edition to it, his six-month old brother. As well as his family in Devon, he spoke often about visiting his mother in Newcastle who, due to tours and spending time in Exeter near his father, he had not seen for a while. "He was patriotic, as evident by his vocal support for England in any sport and was a good football player. His nicknames included 'Beaney', named after Mr Bean the TV character and 'John' after a character with a similar surname in the film the Green Mile. "Rifleman Coffey had the qualities of a good rifleman: hard-working, thorough, quick-witted, brave, adventurous and with maybe just a hint of cheekiness. With these qualities he had strong potential for the future. We will miss him and we feel for his family."  Lieutenant Colonel Justin Maciejewski MBE, Commanding Officer The Second Battalion, The Rifles, added: "The death of Riflemen Coffey as a result of enemy action on 27th February represents a tragic loss to all Riflemen in the Second Battalion The Rifles. He lost his life protecting his fellow Riflemen in the dangerous environment of Basra City. He had only recently been posted into the Battalion but had quickly made his mark on C Company.  "His sense of humour, his skill as a Rifleman and his enthusiasm for soldiering on operations in Iraq were clearly evident to all around him. The fact that he volunteered to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty only two months after having completed a seven month tour with his previous Regiment - The Devon and Dorset Light Infantry - is a humbling testament to his dedication and his selfless commitment to the service to his country.  "As the first soldier of the Rifles to be killed in action, Rifleman Coffey occupies a unique place in our Regimental story. In death he is a shining example for all Riflemen who serve now and in future of what we hope to be as Riflemen. We are all proud as brother Riflemen to have served with him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends at this time of grief and sorrow." "We are all proud as brother Riflemen to have served with him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends at this time of grief and sorrow." Colour Sergeant Steve Brett, Rfn Coffey's Platoon Sergeant, also said: "Rifleman Coffey joined 10 Platoon in early January 2007. He fitted within the platoon straight away and was liked by his peers. A professional, reliable soldier with many qualities, his courage is unquestionable, volunteering for Operation TELIC 9 just after completing Operation TELIC 8 in November 2006. He will be greatly missed." Rifleman Douglas Brady of 10 Platoon, who went through training with Rfn Coffey, said of his friend:  "Dan was one of the best soldiers I have ever met and a loyal friend. If I was down he knew and would always get a smile out of me. We spent many times together in the dirt during attacks together and although we were scared he found humour in it.  "Whatever we did together he always made me laugh. He loved his family very much and always spoke highly of them. He was my best friend in the Army and I love him like a member of my family. He will always be in my memory." Rifleman Ian Lewis of 11 Platoon served with him in the Devon and Dorset Light Infantry and moved to C Company,  The Rifles with him: "Rifleman Coffey was the best friend I made in the Army. We got through Operation TELIC 8 together and the Infantry Training Centre. The one thing I will remember the most was his integrity and the way he never complained about anything he had to do. We had made plans to live together after the Army. One thing I know is true that I am going to miss him dearly. He is a big loss to the Army and to society." Lance Corporal Harold Anderson, 11 Platoon, added: "He was a quiet bloke who took his job seriously and loved the Army. He was easy to get on with and knew what he was doing. The first time I met him after he arrived in theatre was when he was attached to my platoon for guard.  "He seemed rather quiet so I began to make conversation with him. First he was telling me about who he was in training with, then we talked about his name. A common one was ‘Coffee, 2 please’ and he found it funny. "He was telling me about the previous Operation TELIC, what he had done and what it was like. He told me he volunteered for this tour because it was what he joined the Army for and he loved it. "After getting to know him I realised that he was switched on and keen to learn. He made friends quickly and was seen as a team player. Just to think we have lost a good soldier is wrong. Most of all he was one of the boys, a Rifleman by heart."  Rifleman Thomas Thompson, 11 Platoon, also said: "He was a credit to work with. When people were down he always made them laugh."

Rifleman Aaron Lincoln, of the 2nd Battalion,  The Rifles killed in Basra City, Iraq on Monday 2 April 2007.

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Rifleman Lincoln, aged 18, died as a result of injuries sustained during a patrol. Rifleman Lincoln’s platoon was conducting a security patrol close to Basra Palace, a British Army base in Basra, when a gunman opened fire on part of the patrol. His team was tasked to conduct a follow-up onto the suspected firing point but, as the team attempted to gain access to the building, shots were fired from a different direction. Rifleman Lincoln was hit by small arms fire and was immediately evacuated to Basra Palace and then to the field hospital at Basra Air Station for further medical treatment, but sadly he died of his injuries.

[ Rifleman Aaron Lincoln ]

His parents Peter and Karen led the coffin into the church supporting each other. Rifleman Lincoln, who had two sisters and one brother, had followed a long family tradition by joining the Army just a year ago. His grandfather served with the local Durham Light Infantry and he was said by colleagues to be fiercely proud of his family's military heritage. Following the 40-minute service the family left for a private ceremony at nearby Belmont Cemetery.

Private Lincoln was the 105th soldier to die in the conflict.

From Durham, Rifleman Aaron Lincoln was born on 30 November 1988. His grandfather had served in the Army and it was Rifleman Lincoln’s wish to follow in his footsteps. He completed his basic training at Catterick in July 2006 before joining the 2nd Battalion the Rifles in Weeton. Lieutenant Colonel JCW Maciejewski MBE, Commanding Officer the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, said: "The death of Rifleman Aaron Lincoln to enemy action in Basra City on 2nd April 2007 is a tragic loss to all Riflemen. He was a wonderful young Rifleman: enthusiastic, caring and committed. We are all conscious at this time that our grief and mourning are but a pale reflection of the devastating sense of loss that his family and loved ones are living through now. Our prayers are with his parents and his family. "Rifleman Lincoln loved soldiering and was very good at it; he represents a tradition of soldiering that has very deep roots in County Durham. He was so conscious of where he was from and also of his own family tradition of service in the Army. I was struck by this when I met him on his arrival in the Battalion. In a society that often seems so obsessed with self, money, and celebrity Rifleman Lincoln’s short life amounted to something much more profound. He lived for service to his country and his mates. "He lived a life of courage, loyalty, and selfless commitment to others. Ultimately he sacrificed his life for his friends. He died following up an attack on one of his platoon in which a fellow Rifleman was wounded. In the grief we are all feeling at this time we know that Aaron Lincoln, in his short life, represented and lived by values of substance in stark contrast to a world that in many aspects has embraced what is trivial. We are so very proud to have served with him and to count him as a brother Rifleman. He stood out." Major AR Baring, his Company Commander, said: "Rifleman Lincoln deployed to Iraq in January 2007, soon after his 18th birthday. Young as he was, Rifleman Lincoln came across as noticeably sturdy, composed and straight talking; he was, after all, from Durham. Originally enlisted as a Light Infantryman, Rifleman Lincoln was fiercely proud of his family heritage with the Durham Light Infantry. He was pleased to be with the Rifles – especially when he saw the new cap badge, which is similar to the Durham Light Infantry cap badge - and he was hoping to become a bugler.  "Rifleman Lincoln had already made his mark in the company as an incredibly keen and professional soldier of great promise. He had demonstrated exemplary courage, discipline and fortitude throughout this most challenging of tours and had already volunteered for a tour in Afghanistan next year." Captain JPG Mills, his Platoon Commander, said: "Rifleman Aaron Lincoln was a motivated young man and a thoroughly professional soldier. He approached each challenge with a positive attitude and a determined frame of mind; nothing was too much for him. He began his time with us as a quiet lad from County Durham, straight out of depot and grew through his training and time in Iraq into a popular, central figure in the Platoon. He was quick witted and straight talking. He will be sorely missed." Rifleman Taylor, A Company, said: "Aaron Lincoln, or Lincs as he was known to us, was a cheeky guy who knew how to enjoy a joke or wind up. He loved the Army and was really enjoying his time in Iraq. I knew him from County Durham, where we met over a dispute about a shopping trolley one day! His passion in life, as well as the Army, was for Newcastle United FC and I will remember going to St James’s Park with him and remember him proudly as a friend." Rifleman Screech, A Company, said: "Aaron followed his grandfather’s service with the Durham Light Infantry by joining up at the same time as me last year. I know how proud he was because of his knowledge of the Light Infantry Regimental history, far better than my own. I remember Lincs though for not being very good at ironing his uniform! Something I had to do in return for him polishing boots our. We planned to become buglers together in The Rifles and I will miss our nights out together in Durham." Rifleman Lincoln's family have issued the following statement: "Peter and Karen are devastated at the loss of their wonderful son Aaron, who will be missed dearly by all his family and friends.  "Since being a boy, all he ever wanted to do was join the Army, make his mam and dad proud, and he did that and more. He is a hero to us all."

Rifleman Paul Donnachie of 2nd Battalion the Rifles.  Rifleman Donnachie, aged 18, from Reading in Berkshire, was killed by small arms fire during a routine patrol in the Al Ashar district of Basra City at 0930hrs on Sunday 29 April 2007.

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[ Rifleman Paul Donnachie ]

Rifleman Donnachie and other members of his patrol were taking part in an escorting patrol for a police training team. His role was to provide vital observation over the ground while the vehicles in his patrol were stationary. It was while Rifleman Donnachie was dismounted and checking part of the patrol's route that he was shot by an opportunist gunman. Rifleman Donnachie was immediately evacuated to Basra Palace, but sadly he subsequently died from his injuries.

Major Alex Baring, his Company Commander, said: "Rifleman Donnachie, or 'Donny' as he was known to his mates, was the epitome of what it is to be professional. Born and bred in Reading, the Army was his life. He only arrived from training in December as a Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry recruit.  "All those who trained with him remember how studious he was. He'd absorb everything he was taught like a sponge – earning him the nickname 'Potter'. Out here in Basra City, he was one of those rare sorts that never complained whatever he was told to do; in fact he used to volunteer to go out on patrols. He never wanted to be away from where the action was. For an 18-year-old that's pretty impressive.  "Rifleman Donnachie was no average Rifleman; brimming with confidence and a cheeky sense of humour. Despite having been involved at the front end of strike operations and numerous contacts against the enemy in Basra City, he had already volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan later this year. In his downtime between patrols he was becoming a dab hand at poker with his fellow riflemen thanks to a combination of his coolness and his intellect. It was almost impossible to ever get frustrated with Rifleman Donnachie; he just delivered the goods on time, every time and with a smile. He loved the Army, he loved the Rifles, and he died protecting those around him. His loss is tragic and he will be sorely missed by those who had the privilege of working with him. He really was the Best of British." Corporal Farrell, his section commander, wrote: "Donny joined my team in January. Normally it's hard to get a new Rifleman, but within a week of his arrival I was sure I'd struck gold with Rifleman Donnachie. He'd do anything for anyone, and there's not much more I could really ask of a Rifleman. He was really coming out his shell, getting a bit cheeky, but he was the sort that would always get away with it, because he was so good at his job. I'll never forget what he did and that he died covering us on the ground."

[ Rifleman 'Donny' Donnachie  ]

Lance Corporal Robert Dobroczynski said: "I first met Rifleman 'Donny' Donnachie back in December when he joined 3 Platoon. I took an early interest in him as he was cap-badged Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry. Over a short period of time he became one of the strongest members of the section, always happy to go on patrol and the first to get stuck in and get the job done. For his age, Rifleman Donnachie showed great mental maturity when faced with some pretty tough situations. "Rifleman Donnachie will be greatly missed by all that have had the pleasure to work with and know him. Remembered as a man with no enemies, only friends." His friend, Rifleman Joseph Ciardini, said: "If I had to describe Donny in few words then I would use brave, random, funny and keen. Donny loved his job, was proud of what he was doing, and made the best of things. We will always remember you, and love you." Lieutenant Colonel Justin Maciejewski MBE, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion The Rifles, said: "We are grieving the loss of a superb soldier who wanted to make a difference, and put himself in harms way to make Basrah a better place for Iraqis."  Lt Col Justin Maciejewski MBE, CO 2nd Battalion The Rifles ... "Rifleman Paul Donnachie was a wonderfully positive and committed Rifleman. His death to enemy action here in Basra is a bitter blow to all of us and a terrible loss. We are grieving the loss of a superb soldier who wanted to make a difference, and put himself in harms way to make Basrah a better place for Iraqis. He paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life while protecting other members of his patrol. He loved his work and took great pride in it. We are so very proud of him and honoured to count him as one of our comrades. None of us here will ever forget him. He had such energy and humour. Our thoughts and our prayers are very much with Paul's family at this time of terrible and overwhelming grief."

Corporal Jeremy Brookes Killed in Iraq on Monday 21 May 2007. Corporal Jeremy Brookes, 4th Battalion The Rifles

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Corporal Jeremy Brookes, aged 28, of 4th Battalion The Rifles, died as a result of injuries sustained from a small arms fire attack on his patrol in Basra City. He was commanding a Bulldog Armoured Vehicle involved in escorting a routine re-supply convoy in the Al Tuwaysa district of the city at approximately 1530 Local Time when the attack happened.  Despite his colleagues' best efforts to provide first aid and evacuate him to Basra Palace, he sadly died from his injuries.  During this patrol a civilian fuel tanker involved in the convoy was also attacked, catching fire and killing the civilian driver.  4th Battalion The Rifles have recently taken over responsibility as the Basra City Battlegroup, based at Basra Palace, from 2nd Battalion The Rifles. Corporal Brookes, known as 'Jez' to his friends, was born on 19 October 1978 in Birmingham where he grew up. He enlisted in the British Army in February 2001, serving with 2nd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets. In February 2007, The Royal Green Jackets merged with three other regiments, forming The Rifles, of which his battalion became the 4th Battalion.

[ Corporal Jeremy Brookes ]

[ Corporal Jeremy Brookes ]

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders, the Commanding Officer of 4th Battalion The Rifles said of him: "Corporal Brookes was an inspirational and much loved figure in the 4th Battalion The Rifles. An outstanding Rifleman, a charismatic and natural leader, a sportsman of exceptional talent and determination, and a warm, wickedly funny and generous man, he was in all respects larger than life and an example to us all. He was incapable of doing anything by half-measures and lived his life to the full, constantly seeking new challenges to overcome. I never saw him admit defeat in anything and his determination, vigour and sheer zest for life was a personal inspiration.  "Last year he returned from the Sahara Desert where he had just completed, in an exceptional time, the notoriously demanding Marathon Des Sables. Still hobbling on nearly raw feet, but looking lean, tanned and wiry, he came to see me and said 'Right, done that! What's next?' He settled on a 300km Arctic Marathon as his next challenge intending to fit it in after our tour in Iraq. That was the kind of man he was and we are each of us better men for having known him. "His death as a result of enemy action in Basra City is a tragic loss to all of us Riflemen in 4th Battalion The Rifles and above all to his friends and family to whom we extend our deepest sorrow and sympathy; our thoughts and prayers are with them at this terrible time. He died leading his beloved Riflemen in battle, inspiring, cajoling and striving for ever better standards to the last. He led by personal example and was one of the finest Non Commissioned Officers I have ever had the privilege and pleasure to serve with. He died doing what he loved and in life and in the manner of his death he set us all the very highest example of service to others, courage, decency, self-sacrifice and utter commitment.  "We will miss him dearly and will try each day to live up to his legacy. But above all, and though we grieve, we celebrate his life and are so very proud to have served alongside him."

"I never saw him admit defeat in anything and his determination, vigour and sheer zest for life was a personal inspiration." 

Major James Bryant, the Officer Commanding of Cpl Brook's Company, R Company, said of him. "Corporal Brookes, Jez, was one of the most professional soldiers and junior commanders I have had the real pleasure of serving with. He was uncompromisingly professional, loved his job and was the epitome of what a Section Commander should be. He was exceptionally thorough, volunteered for everything and commanded and led by example. Perhaps his hallmark was his extraordinarily high standards. Corporal Brookes had been looking forward to this tour for a long time; he saw it as the realisation of his training and service.  "He had a very direct approach. He ticked and whinged to an impressive standard, but we all loved him – it was just him! He was a straight talker and unafraid to let you know what he thought. I suspect that much of it was because he expected others to be as professional as himself and because he hated to see his Riflemen mucked around.  "He was a quick, bright and ambitious Brum who harboured a wish to become an Apache helicopter pilot, though I think that he would have been perfectly happy commanding his section for ever – he was at his best when leading his Riflemen in tough conditions and he always seemed to just come out on top. He referred to section commanding as his time for 'wearing his smoking jacket and chilling out' but his work displayed that he was doing anything but.  "He was a wildly keen DIY'er and, if one were to believe him, one could have come to the conclusion that he had built his entire house from scratch! He loved his dogs and despite a rather clapped out Ford Mondeo professed a keen interest in cars! But running was his 'thing' and he achieved a lifetime ambition last year in running the Marathon des Sables in North Africa. As was typical of him, he completed this gruelling race with a grim determination and will to succeed. Corporal Brookes was a genuine character, he was the right man for a tight spot and was right at the heart of what makes R Company tick. His loss is tragic and deeply felt, but he would have been exactly the man to rise up and continue the challenge had it been another rifleman. R Company will miss him sorely. SWIFT and BOLD." Corporal Rizzer Smith, a colleague, said: "Since Iraq came up, Jez was my battle partner. We would cover each other and no matter what would do our tasks together. He was always for his blokes." Rifleman Brett Campbell, Corporal Brookes' driver, said: "In this action, as ever, he thought of everyone else but himself first. He told me and the top cover sentries to get down into cover, covering us as we did so. His selfless commitment was legendary." His friend Lance Corporal Steve Pallett said: "Even when he was being serious he used to laugh. He'd do anything for you. King Jez was never wrong. He was just a character – you'd never get another Brooksy Corporal Jeremy Brookes, 4th Battalion The Rifles

[ Corporal Rodney Wilson ]

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Corporal Rodney Wilson, aged 30, was killed in the Al Atiyah district, north west of Basra City at about 0220 hours. Thursday 7 June 2007. His patrol was part of a search and detention operation led by 2nd Battalion The Royal Welch when they came under attack from small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.

The patrol took casualties and, despite the heavy fire, Corporal Wilson stepped in to evacuate one of the wounded when he himself was hit. Corporal Wilson was evacuated by helicopter to the field hospital at the British base at Basra Air Station, but sadly, and despite receiving the best possible treatment, he died of his injuries at 0340 hours. There were three other casualties during this operation, but their injuries are not thought to be life threatening. The operation came at a tragic cost, but the Royal Welch and the Rifles succeeded in their mission. They uncovered the largest cache of weapons yet found by 1 Mechanised Brigade, the UK's current lead formation in Iraq, and detained five local men suspected of criminal activities. Amongst the weapons were 60 mortar bombs, a roadside bomb, and a mortar firing tube. Corporal Rodney Wilson was born in Rinteln, Germany, on 25 October 1976. He served as a Section Commander in 4th Battalion The Rifles, and had been awarded a distinction in the Platoon Sergeant's Battle Course - placing him in the top two percent of Infantry soldiers. His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders, said: "Corporal Wilson was one of the outstanding Riflemen of his generation. A charismatic and inspiring figure in 4th Battalion The Rifles, he was a man of immense natural talent and great strength of character. He had that rare gift of natural leadership that comes to only a few: clarity of thought, crisp and sure footed decision making, strength of purpose and a happy combination of a magnetic personality and absolute self assurance that drew Riflemen to him. Where Corporal Wilson led, others would always follow. He was, in the words of his own Riflemen, 'a legend'. "His professional qualities as a Section Commander set the gold standard for his fellow Riflemen. His award of a Distinction grade on the highly demanding Platoon Sergeant's Battle Course placed him in the top two per cent of the Infantry in his peer group and marked him out as a star of the future. "Corporal Wilson was one of the outstanding Riflemen of his generation. A charismatic and inspiring figure in 4th Battalion The Rifles, he was a man of immense natural talent and great strength of character. He had that rare gift of natural leadership that comes to only a few: clarity of thought, crisp and sure footed decision making, strength of purpose and a happy combination of a magnetic personality and absolute self assurance that drew Riflemen to him." Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders "He was exceptionally fit, very tough, courageous, bold, decisive and always deeply concerned for the Riflemen, not just those under his command, but across his company and the Battalion, he served as a father figure for so many young Riflemen. But much as we admired him and relied on him heavily for his exceptional professional skills, it was his personal qualities and character that made the strongest mark on us all. "He was, in simple terms, a maverick. He loved to challenge convention and upset apple carts - he was argumentative, challenging, thoughtful, highly intelligent and, more often than not, right. But in spite of this wilful streak to his character he sailed though life, effortlessly making friends and gaining admirers along the way and this was because of his immense charm and character. "One just had to admire him - he could charm the birds out of the trees, call black white, inflict a mischievous prank on you and have you agreeing with him and laughing all at the same time. He was remarkable and truly unique, a free spirit - and we will all miss him terribly. "In the days leading up to his death in action in Basra, Corporal Wilson had been an inspirational figure, leading from the front and by personal example courageous under fire, and always a calming influence on his Riflemen and those around him. Where others were apprehensive or nervous, he showed no fear, but exuded confidence, resilience and took such obvious pleasure in doing the job he loved and leading his beloved Riflemen in battle. "He was at the absolute peak of his powers and was a magnificent example to us all and we all drew great strength from him. It is simply typical of Corporal Wilson that he was killed in action whilst evacuating a casualty under heavy fire. It was a supremely selfless and brave act - he would not have thought twice - and he gave his life that one of his beloved Riflemen might live. "So his death is a tragic loss to all of us Riflemen in 4th Battalion The Rifles and it is a very heavy blow. But our sense of loss is as nothing to that of his fiance, family and close friends at home and we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to them; our thoughts and prayers are with them at this terrible time.

"We will miss Corporal Wilson dearly and will try each day to live up to his memory and proud legacy. We know he will be marching beside us in the days, months and years ahead and we are so very proud to have known him as a friend and fellow Rifleman and so privileged to have served alongside him."

[ Corporal Rodney Wilson ]

Corporal Wilson's Company Commander, Major Mark Wilson, said of him: "I knew Corporal Wilson, or 'Will' as he was known to his friends, for four years and I can honestly say that he was the epitome of the thinking Rifleman. A deep thinker, intelligent and, irritatingly, nearly always right he was in every sense an impressive man. He gained a distinction on the premier infantry leader's course, the Platoon Sergeants Battle Course, again demonstrating quite what an outstanding soldier he was. Fellow NCOs, irrespective of rank, would approach him for advice, knowing that he always talked sense. "Will was tough. Very fit, but with dodgy knees, he would pop copious amounts of pain killers, and then set off at a frightening pace that only Missy, his beloved dog, could keep up with. An avid rugby supporter, his love for Australia nearly outstripped his love for England. Indeed he harboured aspirations to move to Australia and join the Australian Army. He was infamous for his wind-ups, only recently he had covered the inside of a fellow Rifleman's helmet with shoe polish thereby condemning the unfortunate Rifleman to an unsuspecting day of ribaldry. "Corporal Wilson thrived on operations and it comes as no surprise to me that at the time that he was shot he was evacuating a casualty under intense enemy fire. He was selfless to the last and completely dedicated to his soldiers, setting an example to which we all must aspire to. He died doing what he loved best, commanding soldiers on operations. "If Will had one stock phrase it was his description of anything and everything as being 'rude'. As he set off for his patrol position, he turned to his Platoon Sergeant, and with a look of sheer excitement, and a cheeky smile, described the situation yet again as 'rude', and with that led his soldiers away. "On asking his peers what they thought of Corporal Wilson, the answer was unequivocal - 'a legend'. He was the lynchpin of the Platoon and a widely respected soldier within the Company."

Major Mark Wilson

"He was selfless to the last and completely dedicated to his soldiers, setting an example to which we all must aspire to. He died doing what he loved best, commanding soldiers on operations."  His friend and Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant Buckley, added: "Will was one of the most diligent and professional soldiers that I have ever had the honour to serve and fight alongside. He was always up for a laugh and had a better of a sense of humour - as dry as they come. All the men that knew him loved him and those who never knew him had heard of him and had total respect for him. A true Gent and a top squad. He will be sorely missed. Goodnight my friend." Corporal Popo, who worked alongside him, said: "I have worked and fought alongside Corporal Wilson and I may not have known everything about him, but I am sure his name will live on long after he is gone. He was a legend." Rifleman Parker, who served with Corporal Wilson, said: "Will was an inspiration to many if not to all Riflemen. He was a strong member of our Platoon and Company. Just his presence during a contact was comforting and he was a good friend. He will always be remembered, missed and loved by all."  Cpl Wilson's fiance Michelle said: "I loved him dearly, I miss him. A huge part of my life has been taken away.

[ Major Paul Harding ]

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Major Paul Harding from 4th Battalion The Rifles killed in Basra City on Wednesday 20 June 2007.

Major Harding died as a result of an indirect fire attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Centre in Basra in the early hours of the morning, local time. Aged 48, Major Harding lived in Winchester with his wife and two sons.

[ It was a fitting and emotional farewell to a Hampshire soldier killed protecting his troops in Iraq ]

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders OBE, Commanding Officer, 4th Battalion The RIFLES, said of Major Harding: "We have lost a close friend, an outstanding leader, an exemplary Rifleman and a remarkable and decent man. But we are not bowed or beaten by his loss. Instead we stand a little taller today than yesterday. The resilience, determination, professionalism, decency and compassion, pride, good humour and fighting spirit that I see in the eyes of this Battalion, despite the losses we have suffered – these things are Paul's legacy." "A eulogy is intended to celebrate the life of the person whose name it bears and to pay him respect and honour in death. But as I sit here in Basra Palace trying to do justice to Major Paul Harding, there are simply no words that can do the job adequately. "Paul was killed by an enemy mortar round at about 0100 this morning at the Provincial Joint Coordination Centre (PJCC) in central Basra and with that I lost a close friend, comrade and confidant; 4 RIFLES lost a deeply respected and loved Company Commander; The RIFLES lost one of its most senior, long-serving and admired Riflemen, and the country lost a veteran soldier of deep personal integrity, professional excellence, wisdom, experience and simple decency. "But our loss is as nothing. His family have lost a husband, father, brother, son and friend and their grief will be inconsolable. Truly the thoughts and prayers of every single Rifleman in the Battalion are with them in their hour of need and beyond. "It may seem strange to talk of love between soldiers, but the very best officers and soldiers inspire extraordinary love, devotion and loyalty in their fellow men. Paul was such a man. A Rifleman with a lifetime of service in The Royal Green Jackets, and most recently The Rifles, he had, over the course of 30 years, risen from the rank of Rifleman, through Regimental Sergeant Major to his present rank of Major and with it his appointment as Officer Commanding Fire Support Company. "The experience he gained over those 30 years meant that he had done the job of every man under his command from Rifleman up to Company Sergeant Major and had done it better than any of them. He knew all the tricks that Riflemen pull, had endured the same hardships and danger, in younger days had got up to the same mischief, and had shared in countless moments of success and glory – large and small. "And so he knew and understood the Riflemen, and through them the Regiment, better than any man alive. And he loved them. Not blindly, for he better than anyone understood their individual frailties and weaknesses and their strengths. But he loved them as a father, encouraging, chastising, leading by example and taking immense pride in their achievements. The Riflemen loved him back with fierce loyalty and devotion. "They came to see that beneath his gruff manner and bristly gunfighter moustache (so typical of his generation of soldiers forged in the tough school of Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s), lay a man with wisdom, judgement and compassion; a consummate professional; a tough, quick-thinking and unflappable veteran who they knew they could trust with their lives. "It is just a few hours since he died, but, knowing that I would have to write this eulogy, his Company wanted to contribute and my desk is covered with short handwritten tributes from his Riflemen. They are unbearably moving and speak volumes for the love and respect Paul inspired. "Paul casts a very long shadow over The RIFLES, and its proud predecessor, The Royal Green Jackets. Through 30 years of service his influence and example has rubbed off on all who served with him and knew him. His legacy has grown through these small, daily personal interactions, and taken over the length of his service, the ripple effect of his influence has made the Battalion and the Regiment what it is today – he is literally one of the fathers of the Regiment. "An outstanding sportsman, representing the Army at squash, triathlon, swimming, athletics, football, basketball and water polo, he has inspired generations of young Riflemen to extend their horizons and to take pleasure in a sporting life as much as their social and professional lives. His dedication and simple direct, uncompromising approach to professional standards laid down a challenge to us all. "It matters less that most of us failed to match him; the key is that he inspired us to try and never to stop trying. It is this constant desire for self-improvement that is one of the most important and enduring aspects of his legacy. And he was a decent man. Family life mattered to him more than anything and I have seldom seen a happier, more balanced and close knit family than his own. "His boys loved and idolised him, learned from his example and in turn made him immensely proud with their successes. Paula's kindness, warmth, love and generosity of spirit has buoyed us all in the approach to this tour and sustained us out here; I pray we can be equally strong and supportive for her in our turn. "Paul had been in Basra for just under a month before he was killed. We had to reorganise the Battalion and this involved dispersing his Platoons with their specialist skills, among the Rifle Companies. Initially I wanted Paul by my side in the Headquarters to draw on his experience and ability, but it became apparent that his skills would be best used at the PJCC – a small and very isolated outpost co-located with the Iraqi Security Forces in the centre of Basra. "Paul was appointed as the Chief of Staff with responsibility for security, re-supply, liaison and the overall daily running of the organisation. Above all he brought a depth of experience in Infantry combat that was simply unmatched, and with that he inspired confidence, calmness and determination in all around him. He had been quite inspirational and tireless for that first month. "On one of his first days there, the PJCC was attacked by over 200 armed militia men intent on overrunning the building. Under his calm and inspiring leadership the small party there from 1 RHA and other Brigade units, augmented by a Platoon from 4 RIFLES, fought off attacks for 4 hours expending over 9000 rounds of ammunition. "Undaunted, he ensured that the organisation continued to function unchecked and made constant improvements to security, to the complex and dangerous business of re-supply and in improving the quality of life and welfare facilities. He was, in the words of the Commanding Officer at the PJCC, quite simply irreplaceable. "Always one to lead by example, he constantly exposed himself to danger from mortars and snipers, encouraging and leading his men and so it was no surprise when I learned that he had placed himself in the front sangar – the most dangerous and exposed spot – in order to help secure the route in for a re-supply convoy from the Palace last night. It was typical of him – he would never ask a Riflemen to do something he wouldn't do himself and wanting to minimise the risk to his men, placed himself in danger. Tragically the sangar he occupied was struck with a direct hit and Paul died instantly. "The Battalion has been hit very hard by Paul's death; the collective sense of grief is tangible, and we have learned over the past few weeks that grief has a time and a place. But we have also learned that honouring our dead requires us to move beyond grief. Paul embodied a life based on service to others, duty and self-sacrifice – the life of a Soldier. He chose this life and lived it with a passion; he died prematurely, but he died doing what he loved.

Brigadier James Bashall, Commander 1 Mechanised Brigade, added: "Major Paul Harding was a legend in the Rifles. He was a wonderful man, and an outstanding soldier. In all that he did, he inspired others; and his loss is deeply felt across the Brigade. Over the past few months I had come to know him personally, and only last week I saw at first hand the impact of his leadership in an isolated base in the centre of Basra. "He was a rock around which others took strength; in the midst of danger he had a steadying and calm influence on all around him. He chose a soldier’s life, and was killed in action serving others. We think now about his wife and family. He was a deeply committed husband and father; and in the silence of their lives we hope they will draw strength from the same memories we all share."

[ Cap Badge ]


Corporal John Rigby from 4th Battalion The Rifles, killed in Basra, Southern Iraq on Friday 22 June 2007. Corporal John Rigby, left of picture, with twin brother Will  Corporal Rigby, aged 24, from Rye, died from injuries sustained by a roadside bomb attack in Basra.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders, Cpl Rigby's Commanding Officer, paid the following tribute to him: "The death of any soldier is a tragedy and in death all are equal, but there are some whose loss is particularly hard to bear – the force of their personality, their personal and professional qualities and the love, respect and popularity they inspire set them apart. Corporal John Rigby was such a man. John was fatally injured early this morning by a roadside bomb near Basra Palace and tragically died from his injuries this evening in the Field Hospital. We are utterly heartbroken. But we are also unbowed, tough and determined: John would have it no other way. "John was an exceptional man in every respect. A Battalion is a large organisation, but John was one of the strongest and most distinctive characters in 4 RIFLES. He was known and universally admired from top to bottom, and even those who did not know him soon learned to speak his name with respect. Although as a Section Commander in B Company he commanded only eight Riflemen, his influence and fame extended the depth and breadth of the 700 men in 4 RIFLES. He was iconic. "We have lost a true friend and exemplary fellow Rifleman: the most talented Corporal of his generation, and a warm, mature, dignified and almost unnaturally gifted man. But hard as it is for us, our pain is as nothing to that of his family whose suffering will be inconsolable. His parents and two sisters have lost a wonderfully warm, lively and loving son and brother; his twin brother Will, also serving as a Corporal here in 4 RIFLES, has lost his lifetime companion and his soul mate. Will was at John’s side when he died this evening. It was their 24th Birthday. "Sitting here in Basra Palace a few hours after John died it is almost impossible to convey what he meant to us and to capture the colour, character and vitality of the man that he was and to adequately describe a life lived to the full and with extraordinary spirit and passion. I count myself blessed to have commanded and known John. He was the sort of man and soldier who any Commanding Officer would cherish.  "He was a warrior – tough and fierce, swift and bold. And he was an astonishingly dedicated and charismatic leader. Like all the best soldiers he inspired love, devotion and fierce loyalty in his men. They idolised him and would follow him anywhere – others fought hard to get into his Section seeing that John cared deeply, was calm and decisive under fire, and kept his men safe. "He was by common consent the most promising Corporal of his generation. This is not just my view, but that of two former Regimental Sergeant Majors who are still serving with the Battalion. He had only recently been selected for promotion to Sergeant; his score on the promotion board placed him as the best Corporal across all five battalions in The RIFLES – an astonishing achievement given that he was only 23 and was competing with many five years older than himself.  "Giving him that good news only two weeks ago gave me such pleasure and pride, but typically he was utterly modest and his only concern was not to leave the Riflemen in his Section. In the words of one of his fellow Corporals from B Company: ‘We called him Goldenballs. He was to squadding what David Beckham is to football.’ In my view, John was unquestionably a future Regimental Sergeant Major and we have lost one of our very brightest and best. "John was also a remarkable man. He had a dignity, modesty and maturity that went way beyond his years. He was calm, highly intelligent, thoughtful, had a smile that lit up a room and a wicked sense of humour. I admired him immensely and liked him from the first time I met him several years ago – he had a nobility of spirit and an almost serene aura about him that drew one to him.  "John had such strength of character and depth of personality and his talents were so obvious – he was one of those rare people who just had it all. He was just great company and as fellow Spurs supporters we had plenty of adversity to share, particularly in what seemed like a Battalion of Arsenal fans.  "In the five weeks before John was killed he had been out on patrol on an almost daily basis and had been involved in frequent fire-fights with the enemy. Basra is a very dangerous place for British soldiers and in the early days of the tour all of us were nervous and with justification - casualties were inevitable. Strong leadership, particularly at junior level, is what makes the difference in these situations and John stood out as one of the best in the Battalion.  "On one night early on during a Battle Group operation mounted into a vicious and volatile area known as Al Qibla, John’s vehicle came under heavy enemy fire. John dealt with the attack with great authority and presence of mind and his Section fought their way through the contact, suppressing the enemy and carried on with the operation.  "One of his Riflemen was particularly shaken by the experience, and might well have lost his nerve, but John, in his handling of the Rifleman showed why he was such an inspiring and brilliant leader. Immediately after the contact, and afterwards when they returned to Basra Palace and to relative safety, instead of criticising as others might, John showed humanity, compassion and natural authority.  "John was a remarkable man. He had a dignity, modesty and maturity that went way beyond his years. He was calm, highly intelligent, thoughtful, had a smile that lit up a room and a wicked sense of humour. I admired him immensely and liked him from the first time I met him several years ago – he had a nobility of spirit and an almost serene aura about him that drew one to him."  Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Sanders "He was calm, reassuring and understanding and restored the Rifleman’s confidence and that of his whole Section by his example and force of personality. Because of John's intelligent leadership that Rifleman is trusted and valued and has since proved himself in numerous contacts – the considerable courage he has shown in overcoming his fear was inspired by John’s words and actions. That is the mark of a great leader.  "John’s personal bravery, dedication and love for his Riflemen were a byword in B Company and in the Battalion. He was killed protecting his Riflemen and leading by personal example, exposing himself to great risk as a top cover sentry in an exceptionally dangerous area approaching the Palace. "He made a judgement that someone had to expose themselves and be ready to engage enemy gunmen and bombers in order to protect the vehicle and its driver and commander, and it is typical of his courage, selflessness and leadership that he chose to do it himself instead of ordering one of his beloved Riflemen to do so. His example has inspired and moved us all. "The whole Battalion has been shaken and saddened by John’s death and there is an empty space in our ranks and in our hearts that cannot be filled. Men like John are exceptional and rare and we count ourselves truly lucky to have known him and shared part of his life with him. But though we grieve for him, we also celebrate a life lived to the full with no doubts, regrets or half measures. John chose this life and he chose us.  "He found his calling as a Rifleman and was immensely fulfilled by the challenges and comradeship that he found here. He died prematurely, but he died doing what he loved, and he died amongst friends who loved him dearly. We are so very proud of him and our tribute to him will be to emulate the values and standards that he lived by – our resilience, our fighting spirit, our professionalism and our determination are all stronger because of John’s example and are undimmed by his death. It is what he would have expected and wanted and we will not let him down. "Our hearts go out to John’s family and to his girlfriend Jess ... John’s family life mattered more to him than anything and his unique qualities as a man came from the wonderful, loving and stable upbringing he and Will enjoyed. His roots were very deep and very important to him and the grief, suffering and pain that John’s brother, sisters, parents, grandparents and girlfriend will be enduring must be all the more painful because of the depth of love that he enjoyed. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for sharing him with us and all our prayers are for them at this terrible hour that they may somehow be consoled and comforted." "John was an outstanding soldier, a master of all trades. The platoon will never be the same without him. He will be dearly missed. He may be gone but not forgotten." Lance Corporal Kevin Langstone 


Cpl Rigby's Company Commander, Major John Wakelin, said of him: "Corporal Rigby, John, was quite simply unique. He was a free thinking, independent and bright young Corporal who approached life with vigour. Life was out there for the taking for Corporal Rigby and he was going to get all that he could from it. Professionally he stood out. His style of soldiering was not only about professionalism and getting the basics right, although he did.  "His approach was more human and his relationship with his men, and his love for them, defined him. He has blistered his way through the ranks and was recently awarded with early promotion to Sergeant. Typically there was little or no fanfare but a quiet knock at my door. ‘Sir’ he asked ‘I’m not sure about this, Section Commanding is where I want to be. I love my job and do not want to leave my boys just yet.’

"Nobody interfered with Corporal Rigby’s section and they were brilliantly trained and utterly effective under his leadership. He had longed to take his Section on operations and no stone was left unturned in his drive for excellence. He was involved with everything and at the heart of B Company. He was the epitome of the thinking Rifleman and no operation or command would escape his scrutiny or the benefit of his fresh ideas. "He had a wide range of interests from jet skiing to his band ‘The Motion’ in which he played drums and for whom he wrote music. He was a keen Tottenham Hotspur supporter and enjoyed football banter with his mates. He loved Australia where he served briefly on attachment to the Australian Commandos.

Cpl Will Rigby follows the coffin at the funeral of his twin brother John

"He came from Rye, or Rye’anappa as he called it. He leaves a devoted family including his twin brother Will, two older sisters, his beloved Grandparents in Warminster and his girlfriend Jess. He spoke fondly to me of days spent on Cley Hill learning of the archaeology of the hill from his Grandad who is the curator of the Warminster museum. He kept a history book with him to read when he was on guard along with a photograph of the three beautiful hills in Warminster where he used to walk. "It is typical of him that he died protecting his Riflemen. ‘His lads’ were saved from injury by their vehicle as he selflessly provided top cover from the vehicle hatch. He died on his 24th birthday." Corporal Craig Maxwell said of him: "John was a gentleman soldier and a man with a clear and wise head. We all used to go to him for advice and a chat." Corporal Dave Pratt said: "His favourite quote was ‘Backs to the walls, everyman will stand and fight and fall. No more retreating'." Lance Corporal Kevin Langstone and all the boys from B21C (Cpl Rigby's section) said: "John was an outstanding soldier, a master of all trades. The platoon will never be the same without him. He will be dearly missed. He may be gone but not forgotten." Cpl Rigby's family issued the following statement: "John was a cherished and devoted son and brother; a talented hardworking and successful soldier, popular with his peers and across all ranks alike. He was due to be promoted to Sergeant in September and had a very bright future ahead of him which included plans to undertake higher education. "He will be accompanied back to England by his twin brother William who is also serving in Iraq with the Rifles, and who was with him at his bedside at Basra military hospital when he died.

[ Rifleman Edward 'Vaka' Vakabua  ]

[ Cap Badge ]

Rifleman Edward Vakabua from 4th Battalion The Rifles dies at Basra Palace on 6 July 2007

Rifleman Edward Vakabua, aged 23, from Nailuva Road in Suva, Fiji, was serving in Mortar Platoon attached to 7 Platoon, B Company, 4th Battalion The Rifles. 

His fellow Fijians in B Company wrote: In Memory of Rifleman Edward 'Vaka' Vakabua

"Ia ko ira era sa waraka Jiova era na vakaukawwataki tale, Era na cabe cake me vakara vakatabana aukauwataki na ikeli, Era na cici, ka sega ni oca, era na lako tu ka sega Ni malumaluma." AISEA 40:31

"But those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall soar on wings like eagles; They shall run and not grow weary; They shall walk and not be faint." ISAIAH 40:31

Vaka was one of the youngest Fijian soldiers in the Battalion. Even though he was emotional, he was very proud to serve under the Rifles cap badge. His life will be sorely missed by everyone especially the families in Bulford. A fighter and someone who would never give up trying. We will miss you bro. His family back in Fiji will be proud  of him. Born a Fijian, died a Rifleman.  MOCE MADA VAKA

Commanding Officer 4 RIFLES, Lieutenant Colonel PNYM Sanders OBE said: "The simple tribute above this one to Rifleman Vakabua by his fellow Fijian Riflemen says more about him than I can hope to. Nor can I match the very personal words below from his Platoon Commander, Captain Will Peltor. These are the men here in 4 RIFLES who knew him best, loved him best and will miss him the most and their feelings shine through strongly. "But 4 RIFLES is a family. And here in Basra Palace the daily hardship and danger we face, and the sacrifices we have endured, have made us a very close one. So Vaka's death yesterday has hurt us all deeply: a friend, a cherished bother Rifleman, a proud son of Fiji – and one of whom Fiji can be deeply proud – has been lost serving our country on active service. "We have just held a service of farewell for Vaka in the dusty, stifling chapel we have made for ourselves here, just above the room where he slept with his friends. It was almost unbearably moving and the tears that flowed down the cheeks of all of us packed into the room were only disguised by the sweat on our faces. His fellow Fijians sang for him – how they sang. They come from a great tradition of harmony singing, but tonight their powerful, clear, sweet voices rang out across the Shatt Al Arab, singing a hymn with more passion, faith and feeling than I have ever heard. It raised the hairs on the backs of our necks and was a fitting and wonderful tribute to a fallen friend whose faith, courage, selflessness and simple decency defined him and inspired all who knew him. Just two weeks ago, Vaka sang with equal feeling at the farewell service for Major Paul Harding, his Company Commander. "But our sense of loss and grief is as nothing to that of his family who will be inconsolable and for whom no words of ours can ease their pain and suffering. His mother, brother and sisters in Fiji who meant so much to him - of whom he spoke frequently and with such evident love and happiness to his friends, recalling the last time they were together at Christmas - and his brother also serving here in Iraq with 1 RHA, will be quite devastated and we pray that The Lord may somehow comfort them in this dark hour and fill the emptiness in their lives. "Vaka embodied the proud, honourable and long tradition of Fijians serving in the British Army. These remarkable men from literally the other side of the world are the best possible ambassadors for their beautiful country that Fiji could hope for. Tough, proud, independent, strong-willed, indomitable and courageous they come from a warrior tradition and make exceptional soldiers. But their unique cultural contribution also enriches any battalion they serve with. They are men of great faith, decency, loyalty and simple pleasures. They are no plaster saints – few Riflemen are – but they have a zest for life and a natural happiness of spirit that is infectious and makes them simply great company; one has only to watch them playing rugby with all the exuberant natural talent and grace that men from those islands seem born with to see it. We are very proud of them and I for one cherish them deeply. "Vaka was all of these things and more. A big and powerful man from Nailuva in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, he joined, like so many of his fellow Fijians, for travel, opportunity and adventure. He joined us in December 2003 and settled well in his new home. He was a quiet, modest man, but his strength of character shone through. His taste in shirts was less discreet and he was rarely to be found wearing anything other than a colourful Fijian 'Bule' shirt. My memory is of a gentle giant; a courteous, smiling, humble man with a natural warmth of spirit, a gentle sense of humour, truly unselfish; in short a gentleman. He was also exceptionally bright. He scored top of his basic skills examination and read avidly, with a love of military history which he found inspiring. When I last saw him he was reading 'Redcoat' and we had a long discussion about the books we particularly loved. He loved being a Rifleman and wanted nothing more than to stay with his mates in the Platoon and talked of serving to his twelve year point. He had no desire or inclination for promotion; it was not that he lacked ambition – his ambition was simply to be the best Rifleman he could be. "But he was also a great soldier, and nowhere more so than out here on operations in Iraq over the last eight weeks where he rose to the dangers and challenges magnificently. Basra is dangerous and we face firefights, roadside bombs and mortar attacks on an almost daily basis. Vaka was a constant source of strength and inspiration to his fellow Riflemen and they knew they could trust him with their lives and that he would face down any danger for them. He repeatedly performed small acts of great courage and selflessness. One such incident occurred early in the tour when his Platoon was guarding the Provincial Joint Coordination Centre (PJCC), a small isolated and much attacked base co-located with the Iraqi Security Forces in the centre of Basra. "Vaka was constantly volunteering for duty in the rooftop sangars – the most dangerous spot. And when a sangar was struck with a direct hit by a mortar round severely injuring a fellow Rifleman, it was Vaka that volunteered to drive the vehicle taking him to the emergency helicopter landing site for evacuation, braving the incoming mortar rounds as he did so with several exploding very close to him. That Rifleman is now recovering in hospital and he owes his survival in part to Vaka's courage. "Vaka's death is a tragedy for us all and above all for his close friends and family and our hearts and prayers go out to them. They can be so very proud of him. He was simply a wonderful man who became the friend and brother Rifleman we loved and admired because of the loving and stable upbringing that they provided for him and we are so grateful to them for him. He was a quiet man, but his understated strength, faith, humility and selfless courage spoke louder than any words could. "In death, as in life, he inspired his fellow Riflemen, his Platoon, his Company and his Battalion. The afternoon he died, his company was deeply shocked, saddened and shaken. That night we were due to conduct a vital and large Battle Group operation against some of the militias responsible for recent attacks. I spoke to Vaka's Company – would they prefer to be replaced on the operation in order to recover and grieve? Their response was their tribute to Vaka – they would not let his memory and example down and their magnificent performance that night was inspired by Vaka; their resilience, courage, fighting spirit and coolness under fire were his legacy."

Losalini Tawakedrau and her grandchildren hold up a picture of Edward Frank Sanday Vakabua who was killed in action in Iraq. Source: The Fiji Times Online

Delivering the eulogy at the funeral of the late Rifleman Edward Vakabua, an emotional Rifleman Mataika said, "Death is in our face every day. For those of us who have served in Iraq and other war-torn places in the world, it is normal to see people die every day, even when they are our mates."

Captain Will Peltor said: "Rifleman Vakabua, 'V' or 'Vaka' as he was known by those who knew him was a quiet, shy and pleasant character within the platoon. There was always a smile brimming under his quiet exterior and he was happiest whilst sitting at the edge of a circle of friends, laughing and joking with the others; his comrades from within the platoon and company. "He was an extremely intelligent Rifleman who incessantly read books; especially large volumes of books on military history as well as his favourite Special Forces books. It was for this reason and his exceptionally neat writing that he always guaranteed himself for being pinged when a 'scribe' was required. "Vaka was a man who never complained and whenever given a task, he would disappear and quietly report back later that day that the job he had been given was done. You didn't need to check up on it as you knew it had been done! There was never any fuss, never any problems, never any complaining from Vaka. And that is why he was so popular. He was a team player, he would always do more than his fair share and never think that a more junior Rifleman should do a job instead of him. "Vaka was often depended upon by his Chain of Command to coax junior Riflemen because he was the one who could be depended upon, the one who would give the least hassle when a 'fastball' appeared for the platoon. After all, there are not many Riflemen who have to be reminded and literally ordered to take their Annual Leave! "The pleasing thing about Vaka during his time out in Iraq was that he had settled down so well and adopted the role as one of the strong Riflemen of the platoon and was, hence, viewed, by the NCOs as one of the senior Riflemen. Having found the Pre-Deployment Training difficult, he had come into his own in Iraq and shown everyone, through actions and not words, exactly what he was made of. He showed how a Rifleman, through hard graft, perseverance and a sense of humour can develop himself and pull out the results when they matter the most- on operations. "Vaka had, during the last eight weeks, moved from being the quiet Rifleman at the back to being the quiet Rifleman at the front, setting the example to the younger Rifleman; be it whilst maintaining the vehicles with grease all over his arms and hands to preparing the vehicles prior to going out on patrol to actually being out on patrol and 'cutting' about on the ground; not needing to be told what to do.  "There is more, however. Vaka set not only an example to Riflemen, but to us all. He was a Rifleman who was, whilst out here, further away from home than the majority of us and who hadn't seen his family since Christmas. He was a Rifleman who never questioned why he had to do a particular task, why the platoon had to conduct a certain patrol or why the platoon had to complete a job in a particular way. Instead, he would just get on with it. His commitment and humility in his service here in Iraq is an example to us all. As one of his Team Commanders said to me, 'He has left very big boots for the Riflemen to fill; they had better be up to the job'. "What will I remember about Vaka? I will remember a good, kind hearted Rifleman who, no matter how much you had shouted at him an hour before, would still give you a winning smile and have no hard feelings towards you when you then asked him to do you a favour. The last thing I remember is the smile on his face at hearing of the praise the NCOs had for him, as a result of his performance over the last eight weeks. "And that is how I will remember him." Sergeant Broughton said: "Rifleman Vakabua was loved and respected by everyone in the platoon and company, he was a gentle giant that did as he was told and just cracked on with the task he was given. Although he hated running he was a keen rugby player, always walking around with a smile on his face this epitomized Rifleman Vakabua as a true Rifleman. He will be sorely missed by his platoon and dear friends, rest in peace." Lance Corporal Zwijnen and Corporal Grievson said: "Vaka was a gentle giant. He was a true Rifleman and Mortar-man. He loved his rest he loved his food, he loved his rugby and he hated running; he was a true mortar-man! He was also a very capable, loyal and committed soldier who was proud of his profession. Even though he was quiet he was a legend to everyone who knew him. He will be greatly missed in mortar platoon. Rest in peace. Three rounds fire for effect followed by rate eight, Vaka. Job done..." Corporal Cox said: "Rifleman Vakabua was a reliable and hardworking member of the platoon. Vaka would never question why, he would always just crack on with the task in hand and ensure that it was done to the best of his ability. This is a quality we could all learn from. His tragic death is a huge loss for the platoon and he will be missed greatly. "Rifleman Vakabua was loved and liked by everyone in the company. A harmless soul who enjoyed his work and life in the army. Vaka will be missed and cherished by all. He was always smiling and laughing at anything that amused him. A warrior and Rifleman." Fellow Riflemen paid the following tributes: Rifleman Saunders said: "I've been thinking a lot of all the good and funny times we had. I will miss you with all my heart Vaka; you pest!" Rifleman Gilbert said: "Keep smiling mate, I'll miss our Fiji language lessons. You'll never be forgotten, Take care."  Rifleman Milner said: "Take care my brother and don't bother those good looking angels like I know you’re probably doing now. You will not be forgotten." Rifleman Sharpe said: "Take care mate I will never forget you. You're a cracking lad, rest in peace bro."  Rifleman Croker said: "There will always be a gap in this platoon in which you belong. At least you won’t be doing phys up Kiwi hill any more. Rest in Peace mate."