1st Battalion Welsh Guards

 


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Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous from 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in Afghanistan on 28 April 2009. Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous was a specialist Mortarman, responsible for directing and controlling the mortar fire used to support friendly troops, an essential role in suppressing the insurgents trying to attack patrols, and in enabling the Afghan National Police and Army to bring stability to the region. He was taking part in a reassurance foot patrol alongside the Afghan National Army in the vicinity of Forward Operating Base Keenan, north east of Gereshk in Helmand province, when he was killed as a result of an explosion.

[ Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous ]


Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards  Tobie was born on 4 February 1980. Having joined the Army, he completed his training in Guards Training Company, Catterick, in 2001 and joined 1st Battalion Welsh Guards when they were based in Aldershot. He qualified as a sniper, and served with distinction in Bosnia and Iraq, where his grasp of local customs and language quickly endeared him to the local community. His partner, Kelly, lives in Bridgend and his mother works in the Middle East. Tobie was a bright, popular individual who proved his flexibility in operational theatres as far apart as Bosnia, Iraq, and, most recently, Afghanistan.  Each time, he showed himself undaunted by unfamiliar environments, and quickly demonstrated the compassion, understanding and professionalism of the British soldier on operations. He had intended to continue his career in the Army, and was interested in attempting pilot selection with the Army Air Corps to fly helicopters. Tobie's mum, Anne Fasfous, said: "We are all extremely proud of Tobie and the job he performed so bravely for his country. His sudden and tragic loss is being felt by his family, his partner and his many friends, both in the UK and in the UAE." His partner, Kelly Gore, said: "Tobie was a tremendous partner; he was proud to be a soldier and died doing a job he loved. We never had a bad time - he loved life to the full and will be sorely missed." His Platoon Commander, Captain Tom Anderson, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, said: "Lance Sergeant Fasfous was a soldier who maintained the highest standards at all times, was utterly dependable, and universally popular. There can be no doubt that the battalion has lost a fine soldier, a loyal comrade, and a close friend. He was killed on patrol doing a job at which he excelled and his loss will be sorely felt amongst all those who served alongside him. As an individual, he generated respect and friendship throughout the Welsh Guards, and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

 

Major Sam J Plant, Officer Commanding FOB Keenan, Light Dragoons, said: "Lance Sergeant Fasfous was employed as a mortar fire controller, working out of FOB Keenan in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand province. In the short period of time that the FOB Keenan troops had worked together, Fas had become a very special member of the team. He possessed charisma in abundance and an infectious sense of humour that endeared him to all those who had the privilege of working with him. He was widely regarded as a 'star' of the FOB in every respect. "On the professional front, he displayed leadership, drive and a real determination to contribute to the security of Afghanistan. His understanding of the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] mission was thorough, as was his part within it, and the safety of his fellow soldiers on the ground was always uppermost in his mind. There is no doubt that Fas had a very bright future ahead of him and he was looking forward to realising his dream of becoming an Apache pilot when he returned from this deployment. "Fas will be enormously missed by all of his colleagues and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during these difficult times."

[ Lance Sergeant Fasfous ]

Sergeant Harper, Lance Sergeant Cunningham, Lance Corporal Liversey, Lance Corporal George, Guardsman Walters, Guardsman Evans, Guardsman McMail, Guardsman Richards, Guardsman Rowlands, and Guardsman Jones, of 3 Section, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards Mortar Platoon, paid tribute to LSgt Fasfous:

"Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous, or 'Fas' as he was known to his friends, was more than just a work colleague. He was a close friend and an inspiration to us all. Throughout the time he spent in Afghanistan he conducted himself in a professional manner and had a lot of pride in the work he accomplished. Fas has been and always will be a brother to his comrades, and he will be truly missed but not forgotten. Our memories of him will be with us forever. "Fas, thank you for everything you have done and taught us. Our promise to you is that your professionalism and pride will carry on in us until the day we meet again. So, goodbye for now to our friend and brother." His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel R S M Thorneloe MBE, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, said: "Lance Sergeant Fasfous was a superb soldier - one of the best of his generation. He was also a great character and a thoroughly decent man. His loss has been an enormous blow to his many friends in the Welsh Guards. He was one of the battalion's great characters and just about everybody knew him, liked him and respected him. Our loss is huge but it is nothing compared to the devastation that his family and his partner - to whom he was devoted - must now be feeling. Our hearts go out to them at this extremely distressing time. "Lance Sergeant Fasfous was an intelligent and thoughtful man who fully understood that by serving in Afghanistan he was putting his own life at risk to make people back at home safer. His tragic loss touches us all but we are resolved to steel ourselves to our task and to try to live up to the exceptionally high professional and personal standards that he set throughout his life. That is the best tribute that we can offer to the wonderful memories that we now have of this outstanding Welsh Guardsman."


Lieutenant Mark Lawrence Evison from 1st Battalion Welsh Guards who was shot in Afghanistan on 9 May 2009 and later died of his wounds in Selly Oak Hospital on 12 May 2009. Lieutenant Mark Evison died after sustaining injuries whilst on patrol outside Check Point Haji Alem in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he was serving as a Platoon Commander in 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. Lt Evison was the Officer Commanding Number 7 Platoon, which was part of the Number 2 Company Group operating in the south of Nad e-Ali. The company has four patrol bases or check points, one of which - Haji Alem - was occupied by Lt Evison and his platoon. In addition to defending the check point they were responsible for patrolling the local area in order to deter insurgent activity and improve security for the local population. On 9 May 2009, Lt Evison was leading such a patrol when they came under enemy fire. He was hit in the shoulder by a single round, and was evacuated back to the hospital in Camp Bastion. Despite the best medical treatment available, he was showing no sign of recovering, and he was flown back to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. His family were with him when he died.

 

Lieutenant Mark Evison Lt Evison was born on 17 July 1982, was educated at Charterhouse School and later read Land Economy at Oxford Brookes University after which he went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Welsh Guards on 14 December 2007. Following the Platoon Commanders' Battle Course he joined Number 3 Company, commanding Number 7 Platoon on ceremonial duties in London. Subsequently he commanded his platoon with distinction on overseas exercises in Canada and Germany. Following the re-rolling of his company, his platoon was attached to Number 2 Company, with whom he trained his men for the deployment to Afghanistan. Lt Evison was an outstanding young officer. He was intelligent, charming, tactically astute, and he cared deeply for the men under his command and was well-liked and respected both by the soldiers under his command and his fellow officers. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

The family of Lt Evison said: "Mark led a charmed life in many ways, because of who he was: he was charismatic, caring, optimistic, and always happy, and he drew to himself a wide circle of friends from all walks of life. "He was devoted to his family. He loved music and, from Dulwich College, won a music scholarship at age 16 to Charterhouse School, Godalming, playing the cello and the piano. "He was a natural sportsman and excelled at all sports; at age 17 running the London Marathon in 3 hours 14 minutes. At age 18, he worked as a jackaroo on a 300,000-acre sheep farm in Hay, Australia, for 11 months, and endeared himself to the Australian outback lads, which in a way was an apprenticeship for the active caring life with his lads in the Army. "He loved the Army and its comradeship, care, adventure, respect and courtesy, and was described in a report from his company commander just before his death as 'an exceptionally impressive young officer who combines real talent with great humility and charm (and who) displays more potential than any officer with whom I have worked'. "He lit up so many lives in his 26 years, and will be profoundly missed. Everyone who knew him loved him." His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE, said: "Lieutenant Mark Evison was one of the finest young officers of his generation and a truly remarkable young man. "He was a natural leader - tactically astute, clear-sighted and cool and decisive under pressure. His platoon gave him the affectionate nickname '007' - a testament to their high regard for his capability, style and charisma. "They would have followed him anywhere. On top of this, Mark demonstrated great humility, modesty and innate decency in his dealings with others. He took great care to look out for the welfare of his soldiers and he was ever generous and patient with those less able than himself. "There was also much more to him than the Army. He was a very talented musician, with a great sense of fun, and a huge circle of friends. "I suspect that his life, tragically cut short, would have gone on to shape history. It would certainly have continued to inspire those around him. "His death has been a huge shock to us all, but we are painfully aware that our loss is as nothing compared with that which has been suffered by his family. Our hearts go out to them at this enormously difficult time." His Company Commander, Major Henry Bettinson, said: "Lt Evison embodied all the attributes of a fine soldier; he was mentally and physically robust, compassionate, intelligent and confident, but without being overly so. He deployed to Afghanistan to help bring stability to the region of southern Nad e-Ali. "His devotion to his men was unquestioned. Despite austere surroundings, he ensured they remained focused on their tasks with an upbeat, relaxed outlook that rubbed off on them. The tremendous ésprit de corps that he helped to generate remains with his men who are determined to continue their mission as he would have wished.  "He was an extremely capable leader, one who truly inspired others to give their best. His was the standard that others strove to emulate. He led with imagination, a lightness of touch and some style. I will remember him for his loyalty, trustworthiness, reliability and mischievous sense of fun.  "He was one of the most accomplished young officers I have worked with and a loyal and highly respected Welsh Guardsman. He will not be forgotten." Lt David Harris, a fellow Platoon Commander, said: "We have all lost a great friend, son, brother and colleague. Mark was blessed with a lust for life that inspired all around him and which saw us through many grueling Sandhurst exercises, freezing nights in Brecon and evenings in London night spots. "In every situation, social or professional, he had a real presence and an infectious enthusiasm that lightened up even the darkest moments. "His confidence, fitness and professional ability was unrivalled as a fellow Platoon Commander. While Mark was acutely aware of why we were fighting, his motivation wasn't as much for Queen and Country as for his men, with whom he shared a great rapport. "His loyalty to them was absolute and this was reflected in their respect and admiration for him. "I am enormously proud to have served with Mark and I am honoured to have been his friend. His loss has left a massive gap in all our lives and he will be truly missed, but not forgotten. "We will continue to remember him through all the great moments we shared and are determined to do him proud out here in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family." Lt Owen James, another Platoon Commander, said: "Mark was the finest friend and brother officer that one could wish for. Ever willing to help others, Mark would move mountains to help those in need, be it a friend or one of his soldiers. "Every inch the 'bloody bloke' - with a sense of humour and love of banter that were infectious, there was never a dull moment when Mark was around. Life will be much the poorer without him, but much the richer for having known him." 

Lance Sergeant Leon Peek, from 7 Platoon, said: "Mr Evison was the best Platoon Commander any of us can remember. His love for the boys and the job we did together was unrivalled. He truly was a great soldier and a close friend to us all." Guardsman Gareth Lucas, also from 7 Platoon, said: "Mr Evison was a great soldier and a true gentleman. A fine role model for us all. He loved his boys and his boys loved him."


[ Major Sean Birchall ]

Major Sean Birchall, from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed in Afghanistan on 19th June 2009. Major Birchall was killed by an explosion whilst on patrol in Basharan, near Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. One other soldier was injured in the incident. At about 1100hrs, Sean was leading a routine patrol to deliver supplies and check on his men in the check points around Basharan. As the patrol, consisting of three armoured vehicles, made its way from one check point to another an Improvised Explosive Device was detonated against the second vehicle. Despite immediate assistance from the patrol medic, sadly Major Birchall died as he was being extracted to the Helicopter Landing Site.

[ Major Sean Birchall ]

Maj Birchall was born on 23 June 1975 in Vanderbijlpark, Republic South Africa, but moved back to the UK six months later. He was educated at St Peter’s Catholic Comprehensive School, Guildford, and later at Plymouth University, where he was a member of the Exeter University Officer Training Corps.  He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1999, and was commissioned into the Welsh Guards on 11 December 1999. He served as a Platoon Commander both on ceremonial duties in London and on exercise in the jungle of Belize. After a stint as the Regimental Signals Officer he returned to the Belizean jungle in charge of jungle warfare training. Following Staff College in 2006-2007 he worked in the Permanent Joint Headquarters, Northwood, but was brought back from that job early to command the newly formed IX Company in Afghanistan. Major Sean Birchall was the Officer Commanding Number IX Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. IX Company is based in Lashkar Gah, the Provincial Capital of Helmand Province. Early in IX the Company’s time in Afghanistan Maj Birchall led them on a large operation where they operated alongside the Afghan Army to drive the Taleban out of a village called Basharan which is 10km North West of Lashkar Gah. Under Maj Birchall’s inspired leadership the Company distinguished itself on this operation and subsequently Basharan became part of the Company’s 'patch'. IX Company was therefore responsible, together with the Afghan Security Forces, for protecting the people of Basharan and helping them to develop their village.  Sean was enormously proud of the Regiment - a Welsh Guardsman through and through. He was a highly capable officer, and excelled at all he did. He was devoted to the men under his command, and they had enormous respect for him. He had a very bright future ahead of him in the Army. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. Sean leaves behind his wife, Joanna, and their 18-month old son, Charlie.  Sean’s wife Joanna paid this tribute: "Sean was a wonderful husband, a doting father and a much-loved son and brother, who cared deeply for his family and friends. "He has been described as 'devilishly fit, stylish and energetic' and he was so very proud to be a Guards Officer. He was also thrilled to have the opportunity to lead a newly-formed Company in Afghanistan and despite spending such a short time with his Guardsmen, he was utterly devoted to them. He would want them to continue with courage and commitment and to come home safely when the job is done. "It is the excellence he achieved in every facet of his life that defined Sean. An athlete, an adventurer and an instinctive leader, he was an inspiration to all who knew him. "He leaves behind his adoring family, the Regiment he loved, and his loyal friends. They will miss him terribly." Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornloe, Maj Birchall’s Commanding Officer, said: "The Battle Group has been stunned and saddened by the tragic death of Major Sean Birchall, OC Number IX Company, following an Improvised Explosive Device strike near Basharan on Friday. Sean had all the qualities of the outstanding professional soldier – fitness, coolness under pressure, and tactical flair. His character was defined by his tremendous and infectious enthusiasm - I do not think he had a negative bone in his body.  "I remember Sean joining the Welsh Guards in 1999 – we had talent-spotted him at Sandhurst as a future star and we pulled out all the stops to persuade him to join us. It worked and from the very beginning it was clear that Sean was going to be a marvellous Welsh Guards Officer – his professionalism and competence were matched only by his generosity of spirit and his commitment to the welfare of the Guardsmen. Those under his command greatly admired his military competence and his legendary physical fitness and they warmed to his cheerful, upbeat manner. Sean always led from the front and his soldiers would have followed him anywhere. "When we planned our deployment to Afghanistan we decided to split our two Companies into three smaller ones. The third Company was formed from an amalgam of different manpower and we named it Number IX Company after the Lead Company of the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards (which had been put into suspended animation at the end of the Second World War). Composite Companies are notoriously difficult to command and Sean was a natural choice to come back to us early from a desk job to command it. In no time his dynamic leadership gelled IX Company into a happy, cohesive team - full of purpose and self belief. Soon after they deployed they found themselves playing a key and distinguished role in the first offensive operation of the summer – a role in which, under Sean’s leadership, they excelled.  "Sean was hugely proud of his beloved Number IX Company, and rightly so – they are widely admired here and their reputation is very much the product of his energy, leadership and vision. Like many others I find it impossible to imagine that this irrepressibly warm, energetic and positive man can no longer be with us. He really was an inspiration to those of us who were lucky enough to have known him. The unselfish and positive manner in which he led his life could not contrast more starkly with the nihilistic cruelty of the people who took it from him. "Our loss, as a Regiment, is enormous. But it is as nothing compared to that suffered by Sean’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this dreadful time. I want to end by saying that we remain resolute and determined to see through the mission that Sean played such a massive part in helping us to deliver. He would expect nothing less."  Warrant Officer Class II Andy Campbell, Maj Birchall’s Company Sergeant Major, said: "Major Birchall was the consummate professional in everything that he did. Never one to rest on his laurels, he excelled in leading from the front, never asking anyone to do anything that he was not prepared to do himself. He ensured that every member of the Company, regardless of cap badge, was welcomed and understood the history of where the Company came from and what they had achieved. He instilled a great deal of pride in all of us. "Major Birchall was the right man to bring IX Company together and will be remembered by all who met him as an exceptional soldier, inspired leader and most importantly a good man. It was my honour and privilege to serve with him. IX Company has lost a brave man and a good friend.  Major Henry Bettinson, a fellow Company Commander, said: "I remember when Sean first arrived in the Prince of Wales’ Company in London in 1999 – I was the Second in Command of the Company. The Commanding Officer at the time, Lt Col Ford, was keen that all new officers conducted State Ceremonial before we left London for Aldershot in early 2000. Sean was duly sent to the Tower! He had a photograph taken there by his family of him dressed in bearskin, greatcoat, sword and gloves at the top of the steps just after the Ceremony of the Keys. It is a fine photograph and one that he was rightly proud of.  "Sean had an intensity about him in everything he did. Physically very fit with uncompromising standards, he was wholly dedicated to leading his men and was utterly professional. His first Platoon Sergeant was one Sgt Monaghan (now the Regimental Sergeant Major). They formed a very close knit team and we in Company Headquarters knew that there would be no problems in that Platoon.  "In 2000 the Prince of Wales' Company managed to 'escape' to Belize for six weeks to take part in Ex TROPICAL STORM, a dismounted company-level jungle exercise. Sean led his Platoon with real zeal and helped many of his men to realise that jungle warfare is no black art; more a theatre that requires greater personal discipline, accurate navigation and quicker reactions to tactical situations. Sean was then selected to become the Regimental Signals Officer. He passed his course with distinction and joined the Battalion in Bosnia for its first tour in 2002. Communications were difficult throughout the widely dispersed Battle Group; but he is remembered for energetically driving around the Area of Operations with his Regimental Signals Warrant Officer struggling to keep up.  "He always held an aspiration to attend Special Forces Selection. But he was courting a girl called Jo. He spoke of her fondly and was conscious that attending Selection might jeopardise the relationship. They married and Sean was then posted to a newly created job as a Training Officer in Belize for two years. These were glorious times that allowed him to combine soldiering in the jungle with domestic stability. Whilst he was 'under the canopy', the Battalion was shocked to hear that a cooker had exploded in his face. He was flown to Florida for reconstructive surgery that was entirely successful. Only the smallest of scars on his nose reminded those who knew about the incident. "Sean was to return to Florida some years later on a brief attachment to the United States Armed Forces Central Command, based in Tampa. He then attended the Intermediate Command and Staff College where he excelled. A high-profile posting to the Permanent Joint Headquarters followed before he was brought back to the Battalion early to command Number IX Company in Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 10. "Although he only first met his new Company as it arrived in Camp Bastion, his typically dynamic leadership generated tremendous ésprit de corps in short order and within weeks they were playing a key role in the first major offensive operation of the summer. He will never be forgotten and lives on with us who had the good fortune to know him." Warrant Officer Class I (Regimental Sergeant Major) Michael Monaghan said: "I am deeply saddened by the news of Maj Birchall’s death and my immediate thoughts go out to his family during this very traumatic period. I had the enormous privilege of being Maj Birchall’s Platoon Sergeant when he first joined the Battalion. Even during this early start to his career he demonstrated that he was an exceptionally talented officer and I knew that he would later go on to have a very successful career. He was everything you could wish for in a Platoon Commander and it gave me great pleasure seeing how he excelled at commanding one of our company’s on Op Herrick. "The greatest memories I will have of him were his dedication to the soldiers that were under his command and the fact that you could not wish to serve with anybody who was more of a gentleman. He was an absolute pleasure to be around; every time we met I would be greeted by a big smile and the feeling that he was happy to see me and he was always willing to give up his time for a chat. Maj Birchall will be sorely missed by me and everybody that knew him. His death will be a huge loss to the Welsh Guards." Sergeant Jack Owen, also from IX Company, said: "I have known Maj Birchall since my first days in the Army as he was my platoon commander when I joined as a young guardsman. Major Birchall was a keen soldier who demanded first and foremost that his men were fit to fight, which saw us up and down Aldershot’s many high features on a daily basis. Once the work for the day was done there was always time for banter and a laugh in which his relaxed form of leadership kept morale high in the platoon. Major Birchall’s enthusiasm always saw him leading from the front during every exercise always encouraging us to perform to the highest of standards, naturally making the guardsmen want to work for him, not because they had to. "Nine years later when I found out I was joining IX Company, and that Maj Birchall was in command, I was happy knowing that he would lead us well in a difficult environment. In the short time that IX Company was reformed Major Birchall has instilled a fierce pride in the Company. Leading us in on an advance to contact, always first into the sangar to return fire in contact and never expecting anyone to do something that he would not do himself. Major Birchall was sadly killed doing what he did best, leading from the front. "Major Birchall will be remembered as an outstanding leader of men, who took massive pride in his personal soldiering, his company and his men. His legacy will live on within the men of Number IX Company. Gone but never forgotten." Guardsman Steven Matthews, from IX Company, said: "Major Birchall was an outstanding Company Commander and great soldier. He loved his job and the boys and he was a fine role model for us all."


[ Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe ]

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and Trooper Joshua Hammond of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment were killed, Wednesday 1 July 2009, in Afghanistan. They were killed by an explosion whilst on convoy along the Shamalan Canal, near Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. On 1 July 2009 Lt Col Thorneloe left the Battle Group Headquarters on a re-supply convoy so that he could visit his men, because they were conducting a major operation in hostile territory. He was travelling in a Viking armoured vehicle, but at 1520hrs local time an improvised explosive device was detonated under this vehicle. Lt Col Thorneloe and Tpr Hammond were killed by the blast.

[ Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE and Trooper Joshua Hammond ]

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said: "The deaths of Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe MBE and Tpr Joshua Hammond during Operation Panchai Palang in Helmand province is a devastating blow to the Welsh Guards Battle Group and to the Army as a whole. "Tpr Hammond was a first class tank crewman who epitomised the spirited and determined approach to operations expected of Royal Armoured Corps soldiers. "Lt Col Thorneloe was an outstanding Commanding Officer and a born leader, who I knew well. His courageous, thoughtful stewardship of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards since October last year has seen them superbly prepared for the demands of Afghanistan, both in terms of their professional capability and their unbreakable spirit as a team. "At the leading edge of his generation, his loss will be felt deeply not only by his family but also by his soldiers and others, who like me, had the privilege to serve with him. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of both these highly capable and popular soldiers - as well as with the entire Battle Group, for whom the loss of their Commanding Officer will have been a particularly bitter blow. "However, this tragic incident has only served to strengthen our resolve and commitment to succeed in bringing stability and prosperity to Helmand province. We will remember them both." Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said: "It was with great sadness that I heard of the deaths of Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe and Trooper Joshua Hammond in a single incident in Afghanistan yesterday. "Lieutenant Colonel Thorneloe's death is a hard blow to the Welsh Guards, to Task Force Helmand and to the British Army" I knew him myself as a man of incisive thought, enormous professionalism and the greatest decency who could not wait to leave the high profile post in the Ministry of Defence where he had performed so impressively in order to take command of his battalion on operations. "He saw it as the best job he would ever do, but I know that his genuinely exceptional abilities would have ensured him a brilliant career. As his own thorough and thoughtful tributes to those who fell before him show, he led his men with energy, care and pride - and he died leading his men. "I cannot imagine a finer officer to have had in the front rank of the British Army, and his loss is all the harder. "Trooper Joshua Hammond was by all accounts an exemplary soldier, popular with his comrades and a true family man. "Tributes to his bravery, skill and commitment to his friends and family paint a picture of a good and much-loved man whose contribution and presence will be hugely missed by all those who knew him. "At this terribly sad time, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these two fine men." Lt Col Thorneloe was the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, which is currently working as Battle Group Centre South in Helmand province. The Battle Group is responsible for improving the security situation in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and the surrounding areas - a formidable area of responsibility, containing about half the province's population. As a mark of the challenge faced, the number of soldiers in the Battle Group he was commanding had grown to well over 1,000. Lt Col Thorneloe was commissioned into the Welsh Guards in 1992. At regimental duty he served as a Platoon Commander and Company Second-in-Command both in the UK and on operations in Northern Ireland, as Adjutant in London, and as a Company Commander, again in the UK and on operations in Northern Ireland. Extra-regimentally he spent a year as an Intelligence Liaison Officer with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch (in South Armagh); a year as an Intelligence Analyst at the Permanent Joint Headquarters (Northwood); two years as the Operations Officer of 1st (UK) Armoured Division (in Germany and Iraq); and two years in the MOD as Military Assistant to the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Policy) and, latterly, Military Assistant to the Secretary of State for Defence. He assumed command of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards on 28 October 2008. He was a very keen polo player until the age of 28. Since then his primary interests have been sailing and game shooting. Lt Col Thornloe leaves behind his wife, Sally, and their daughters Hannah and Sophie. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.

Mortified': Prince Charles with Lt Col Thorneloe in February inspecting the troops

'The news was 'completely heartbreaking', he added. Lt Col Thorneloe was commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. Charles is the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief.


His wife Sally said: "Rupert was my very best friend and his death is a devastating blow. Our daughters Hannah and Sophie will have to grow up without their beloved Daddy, although I will see a part of him in them every day. "I could not have asked for a more caring, adoring and loving husband and father. While he was with us our lives were filled with joy and happiness, they will never be the same again. Hannah always said the best bit of Daddy was his coming home and that will never happen again.

"Rupert loved the Army. He was a born soldier - an inspiration. I know he felt privileged to command his battalion on operations and thought so highly of them and their families left behind. I know he led from the front and would not have had it any other way. He cared deeply about his men as he did about so many. "His charisma, compassion and enthusiasm for all in life will be so sorely missed by his family and many friends but most of all by me who loved him so much."

Brigadier Tim Radford, Commander Task Force Helmand, said: "Rupert Thorneloe was, quite simply, a superb Commanding Officer. He was an inspiration to his men, and they loved him for it. "He cared deeply for them and the whole Welsh Guards family. He died as he lived his life, leading from the front. As his Brigade Commander, I valued his leadership, his honesty and his enormous moral and physical courage. "He was destined for greatness in the Army. As a friend for 12 years, I will remember him as a devoted husband to Sally and a most wonderful father to Hannah and Sophie. I shall miss him dreadfully." Colonel Sandy Malcolm, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel Welsh Guards, said: "Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe was an outstanding man and an officer destined for the top and the regiment has lost one of their very finest. He cared passionately for the men under his command and what his battalion were doing in Afghanistan. "He had all the qualities that made him special. He was the consummate professional, charismatic, possessed an intellect that was as sharp as you can get, able to absorb issues large and small and he was utterly charming. He had time for everyone and would always go that extra mile to ensure that everything he did was 100 per cent or more. We were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and advice. "Whether in the regiment or in the many demanding appointments held in the Army he touched all with his infectious enthusiasm, sense of humour and sheer professionalism. "He was acutely aware of the dangers his battalion in Afghanistan faced having already seen a number of his men killed in action and injured in battle on the tour. But he led from the front, inspiring confidence, trust and huge respect from those under his command who will all miss him greatly, as we will at home. "His death is a huge loss to us all and all our thoughts and prayers are with his wonderful family who we are giving as much support to as possible at this difficult time. We will always remember him as one of our very best. He was a simply remarkable man and officer and a great Welsh Guardsman." Major Andrew Speed, the Battalion Second-in-Command, said: "I was very fortunate to be the second-in-command to a truly talented officer. To see him in operation was an inspirational sight. His attention to detail and his drive were extremely impressive. When we were flagging through late nights and early mornings he still had the resilience to push on.  "As a man he did not seek personal gain. His motivation was always for the Welsh Guards, his men and his family. This was his focus and this is what drove him to work as he did. "He was compassionate and caring and despite working us hard he always had words of encouragement and he always took time out to laugh and joke keeping our morale high even in the toughest of circumstances. "I shared an office with him for the last nine months. It was a privilege that I will never forget because sitting there listening to him in action taught me more than any staff course ever could. "To lose such a man while on operations is a considerable blow. But it is a blow that will not discourage us. We have been moulded into an effective team by a great leader who would have wanted us to complete our task in Afghanistan. "It is a task that he passionately believed in and we will not let him down in the relentless pursuit of the goals that he set us. "His wife Sally and his two daughters Hannah and Sophie are in our thoughts and prayers because our loss, although great, is nothing in comparison to theirs."  Major Guy Stone, one of the Company Commanders, said: "Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe was not only a truly great friend but an outstanding man for whom to work. "He was kind, very thoughtful, utterly decent, and someone who had complete loyalty from and deep admiration of all his Company Commanders. "He was the perfect military guide for us all and there was no better moral compass. He would always listen and never forgot a thing. "He adored the Welsh Guards: the Regiment, the Battalion but especially his Guardsmen. We knew, as a battalion warned for Afghanistan, that we were in the very best of hands. "His great intellect, thoroughness and deep care for those under his command gave us huge confidence. He never missed a trick and he was even always one step ahead of the most mischievous Guardsman. "He amazed us with his enviable capacity for work. We all know that Colonel Rupert's reputation was undoubted from the highest echelons of the Army, and indeed the Government, having worked closely for the Secretary of State for Defence. "But above all this, and what hurts most of all, is that he was a very loving husband to Sally and father to Hannah and Sophie. "I had the very deepest respect for him and I will miss him enormously, but now he would want us to continue with added determination and drive with his cry 'all of one company'." Major Martyn Miles, the Battle Group Logistics Officer, said: "Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe MBE was a superb Welsh Guardsman who loved his battalion. He died leading his men from the front, and I for one have felt his loss enormously having served with him on many occasions including beside him as the Regimental Sergeant Major when he held the appointment of Adjutant. "Since our arrival in Helmand province, the Battle Group has achieved amazing things under the command of Colonel Rupert. He was confident that within our time we would increase and deepen security within our area of responsibility [AOR]. "Col Rupert was a great soldier himself, and a great leader of men, an example to other Commanding Officers. Every incident that happened with our AOR he praised his men for their professionalism and dedication to duty and encouraged them to carry on. "The battalion will now carry on as he would have wanted us to do, as a family regiment. We will draw from the great strength within using pride, determination and the love for the Commanding Officer. We will drive forward to achieve the objectives that he felt so passionate about. "He will be truly missed by all ranks that were lucky enough to serve under his command. My thoughts and prayers are with Sally and the two young daughters Hannah and Sophie. God Bless." Captain James Aldridge, the Adjutant, said: "Being Colonel Rupert's Adjutant was hard work, but it was also very rewarding. There were many late nights, but I had the privilege of watching and learning from a highly capable man. "He demanded the highest standards from those under his command, but justifiably, as he also set the highest standards himself. He would never take the easy option, but would always spend the extra time to work out what the best solution would be for the battalion, and also for the individuals concerned. He could not have been prouder of the regiment, nor cared more deeply for its members. "He would never have asked anyone to do anything he was not prepared to do himself, and he died doing just that - leading from the front. He will be sorely missed by the battalion, and all who knew him." Captain Ed Launders, the Operations Officer, said: "Lieutenant Colonel Thorneloe was a man apart; he combined an astute military brain with real compassion for the men under his command and a unique ability to spot opportunities where others would not. "He led the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards Battle Group with the steadiest of hands in often the most difficult of circumstances; he was utterly committed to his men, and to bringing about lasting improvement to the lives of the people of Afghanistan. "I have served under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thorneloe as a Platoon Commander in his company, and as his Operations Officer in Afghanistan. "It has been a real privilege to witness a true master at work. His intelligence and imagination, combined with selfless determination, left the rest of us in his wake. His humanity and good humour means that he will leave behind a happy and bonded team with an utter determination to succeed. "I will remember him for his kindness, humour and ability to get the very best out of his team. He will be sorely missed." Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Michael Monaghan said: "Words cannot express the sadness that has been felt by the loss of the Commanding Officer. My immediate thoughts are for his family and they have my deepest sympathy. "I knew the Commanding Officer since he was a young Platoon Commander and the first encounter I had with him was as a result of his considerable qualities as an officer when he was selected to lead the battalion's team for the Cambrian Patrol competition. "The Commanding Officer was the ultimate professional in everything he did and no stone was left unturned in his quest to ensure that everything was done correctly in order to improve the lives, more often than not at the expense of his personal life, of the men in their careers and personal circumstances. "The Commanding Officer was an extremely talented leader and was the kind of man that you would follow anywhere knowing that you were in very capable hands. "He will be greatly missed by all of the battalion and I will always remember him for everything that he did for the men and the kindness that he showed to everybody. He was a truly great man."


[ Lance Corporal Dane Elson ]

Lance Corporal Dane Elson from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in Afghanistan on 5 July 2009. Lance Corporal Elson was killed while on patrol in Babaji as part of Operation PANCHAI PALANG in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was part of a Fire Support Group from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, attached to The Light Dragoons Battle Group. On 5 July Lance Corporal Elson was a Team Commander in his Fire Support Group. Attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, their mission was to clear the enemy from positions south of Malgir. Having provided fire support for an attack on an enemy-held compound, the Fire Support Group began to move off. As they did so an improvised explosive device exploded, killing Lance Corporal Elson instantly.

Lance Corporal Elson was born on 28 September 1986 in Harare, Zimbabwe. His family now lives in Bridgend in Wales. Having joined the Army, he completed his training in Guards Training Company, Catterick, in 2004 and joined the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards when they were based at RAF St Athan, near Cardiff. He served in Iraq in 2004/05, and in Bosnia in 2006/07. He passed a promotion course and was promoted to Lance Corporal during the pre-deployment training for Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Elson was a keen rugby player and he lived for the mates he had around him in the Welsh Guards. He had a very bright future ahead of him, and stood out as a Guardsman destined for the higher ranks of the battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Gus Fair, Commanding Officer, The Light Dragoons Battle Group, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was part of a small band of Welsh Guards attached to the Battle Group. Despite being small in number, they have made a huge impact with their professionalism, drive and determination to take the fight to the enemy. Lance Corporal Elson was one of the best of these. It is typical of the man that he died while providing cover to the rest of his platoon. Though Lance Corporal Elson is no longer with us, his fellow Welsh Guardsmen, and the Battle Group, will remember this talented and popular soldier." His Battalion Second-in-Command, Major Andrew Speed MBE, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was a dedicated and loyal Welsh Guardsman who had been with the battalion for five years. He was promoted shortly before his deployment to Afghanistan and was looking forward to an undoubtedly bright future. "Lance Corporal Elson was a Javelin operator with one of the fire support groups, a job he relished. He was extremely fit and was mentally very tough. Prior to deployment, Lance Corporal Elson broke his wrist while learning to drive a quad bike. This meant that his deployment would be delayed. So keen was he to deploy with his fellow Welsh Guardsmen that he suggested to his Section Commander that he should cut off his plaster and pretend that his wrist was fine. To his disappointment, he was forced to wait for his wrist to heal. "With Lance Corporal Elson's belated deployment came his characteristic energy and enthusiasm, which made an immediate impact on his friends and fellow Welsh Guardsmen serving in the small contingent of Guardsmen attached to The Light Dragoons. He was soon in his element, and could not have been a more effective Team Commander on operations - he galvanised his team and was the fully rounded article. It was so typical of Lance Corporal Elson to have been providing cover and looking out for his mates when he died, he lived his life with a very selfless ethos which inspired others. "Outside of the Army he was a man whose company others would seek. His friends describe him as being as sociable as a young Guardsman can be; he was universally regarded as being reliably good for morale. For Lance Corporal Elson's friends, no night out was complete without his presence. "In the same manner that we have dealt with our previous tragic losses, the Welsh Guards will bear this loss with fortitude and determination. In the knowledge that our fallen will have wanted nothing more than for us to continue with even greater determination and stoicism, we will continue undaunted by our losses." His Company Commander from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Major Austen Salusbury, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was a first class soldier who crammed a lot into the five years he spent with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. He had shone as a Guardsman and had been recently promoted before deploying to Afghanistan, a deployment he relished and which caused him to be so disappointed when he could not deploy at the same time as the rest of his Fire Support Group due to an injury. "When he did deploy, he proved as expected to be a very strong Team Commander in the demanding operational environment of Afghanistan. His belated deployment from the UK brought significant impact; his characteristic drive and determination were an example to his comrades in the small and tightly-knit band of Guardsmen serving with The Light Dragoons Battle Group. "Lance Corporal Elson's unassuming character belied a quiet determination and confidence which was reassuring to all. With a diligence in all that he did, his Platoon Commander could not have asked for a better man to command one of his fire support group teams. "Extremely sociable and universally popular, his loss will be felt by all of the friends he had in the Anti-Tank Platoon and his Fire Support Group, in Support Company as a whole, and by the wider Welsh Guards family." His Platoon Commander, Captain Phil Durham, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was recently promoted because he embodied all the qualities of the most promising of junior leaders: outstanding fitness, calmness under pressure and an intense reliability. He was immensely popular and had a great sense of humour. No matter the size of the task ahead of him, he would take it in his stride with the same wry grin. All this made him an outstanding Welsh Guardsman and Junior Non-Commissioned Officer. His passing has left a void in the platoon which cannot be filled." Sergeant Grant Lewis, his Platoon Sergeant, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was an awesome leader. He was always first to volunteer, no matter what the job. He loved soldiering and was a constant inspiration to those around him. Our platoon was attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, and he was immediately a highly respected and well-liked member of the Company Group." Lance Sergeant Dan Collins, another member of the platoon, said: "Lance Corporal Elson was a true friend and comrade. He always had a smile on his face. He was a cracking soldier and will not be forgotten."


[ Private John Brackpool ]

 Private John Brackpool of Prince of Wales’ Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Private Brackpool was killed on 9th July 2009 whilst on operations near Char-e-Anjir, just outside Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province , Afghanistan. He was serving as a rifleman with the Prince of Wales’ Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. Private Brackpool was on sentry duty on a compound that had recently been secured as part of Operation Panther’s Claw, when the compound he was in was engaged by enemy fire. One of the rounds struck him, and despite immediate medical attention there was nothing that could be done for him. John was born on 11th July 1981 in Crawley, West Sussex. He joined the Army and served with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, during which time he deployed on operations to Kosovo and Iraq. He had left the Regular Army, but volunteered to serve with 1st Battalion Welsh Guards for a 6-month operational tour to Afghanistan. Although his time with the Welsh Guards was short, he had settled in well and quickly become a popular member of his platoon. He leaves behind his parents, his partner, and his young son. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him ... "Private Brackpool was a superb soldier who had learnt his trade as a member of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, serving with them in both Kosovo and Iraq. After a number of years he left the 'Pick of the South', as he affectionately referred to them, and entered civilian life. But before long he joined up as a reservist to serve with the Welsh Guards for their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Read more by clicking here