Sunday, June 21, 2009

Major Sean Birchall killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Major Sean Birchall, from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed in Afghanistan on 19 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, 1 WELSH

Maj Birchall was born on 23 June 1975 in Vanderbijlpark, RSA, 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."


  1. I am so sorry for your family's loss.

  2. On Saturday 20 June 2009, I received a heartbroken email from my son Nicholas who lives with his wife Brigitte in Belize, telling me about the death, in Afghanistan, of their friend Sean Birchall. I think as many people as possible should know the high esteem in which this brave soldier was held. My son wrote " I learned today of the death in action in Afghanistan of our very good friend Major Sean Birchall. I cannot imagine what Jo his wife is going through right now. Sean was the perfect soldier. He really was the epitome of everything a British Officer strives to be. Integrity, humility,character and an incredible leader - he really had it all. His men worshipped him and everyone held him in the highest regard. He was always building people up and making them feel worthwhile and good about themselves. Generous and thoughtful to a fault. The world has truly lost a fine man. B and I will miss him so much, he was a wonderful friend to us. The last email I had from him was last weekend and I told him how much B and I and our families respected him and his men and what they are doing. They are doing their job to the best of their ability. They are truly the most professional army in the world and really should get more credit and more importantly RESPECT from the people who live in the U.K. Today is a very sad day." I felt so sad when I read Nicholas's email and I haven't been able to stop thinking about what my son wrote. I am very glad to have the opportunity to share his tribute to his friend who will live forever in his and Brigitte's heart.

  3. Lt Col W.A. Ulrich, USAF (ret)July 1, 2009 at 3:54 AM

    I was just notified (30 JUN 09) of Sean's death. As a US comrade in arms while Sean was serving with me in the US as part of our Task Force, he impressed me as an exemplary man and Coalition Officer. I am extremely proud to have known him and am confident that his men are better because of his leadership. It is at times like this when we realize the sacrifices our men and women in the military make, regardless of nationality, for the cause of peace and freedom in the world. Sean's sacrifice, and that of his Family, are appreciated more than words will ever be able to capture. May God watch over Mrs. Birchall, Charlie, and all of Sean's family, friends and fellow servicemen.