Friday, July 3, 2009

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep sadness that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that 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 yesterday, 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 resupply 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, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards

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.

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."

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