Suffolk: ‘A light has gone out’ - tributes to marine who died tragically

Colour Sergeant Aaron 'Tiny' Winter Colour Sergeant Aaron 'Tiny' Winter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
9:00 AM

Tributes have poured in for a “passionate, morally upstanding and straight-talking marine” who has died suddenly.

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Colour Sergeant Aaron ‘Tiny’ Winter, who was born and raised in Suffolk, died whilst off duty at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, Somerset on December 6.

Nicknamed Tiny as a result of his imposing 6’ 7” height, the 39-year-old Sgt Winter had been a marine since 1996 and served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Aaron Winter was born in Bury St Edmunds in July 1974 and spent his early years at Dairy Farm in Badwell Ash. His mother Mollie Humphries said that Aaron led a very outdoor life and developed a love of animals while on the farm, particularly dogs.

Aaron’s grandfather, Ray Rudderham, with whom he was very close, lived near RAF Shepherds Grove and Aaron would often watch the USAAF jets as they landed and took off from the base.

Aaron attended primary school in Badwell Ash before going to Blackbourne Middle School in Stanton, after which he joined the Coldstream Guards Junior Leaders.

However, having decided the Guards was not for him, Aaron enrolled at Northgate High School in Ipswich and Suffolk College. During this time he lived in Warrington Road, Ipswich.

After leaving Suffolk College Aaron went on to study a humanities degree at the University of Greenwich.

At the age of 22 Aaron joined the Royal Marines Commando and passed for duty on October 17, 1997 with 717 Troop. He was assigned to a number of Units including 40 Commando RM near Taunton, and Commando Training Centre RM near Exmouth.

Tiny, as he had become known by this stage, deployed in operations to Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and as well as his campaign medals he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.

His service sometimes brought him into contact with influential characters, and in 2011 he attended a barbecue in the garden of No 10 where he met Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama.

Mollie relates the story of how President Obama served him some extra food at the barbecue asking, “Tiny, would you like some more sausages?”

In December 21, 2009, Aaron married Laura at a ceremony in the Tower of London, and the happy couple had a little girl called Ava.

C/Sgt Winter, who was a keen boxer and lifted weights, was serving as the Provost Sergeant in charge of standards and discipline at the Commando Training Centre when he collapsed in the gym at Norton Manor Camp. He was declared dead at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.

An investigation is underway into his death, and his funeral took place with full military honours at St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton, on Thursday, December 19.

Over 600 people were in attendance, and some marines were in tears at the death of their comrade.

Cpl Edwards, PROVOST JNCO, said: “Tiny was a legend, he was an inspiration to us all and had a professionalism that we aspired to – a true Bootneck’s Bootneck.”

Mollie said that her son had a reputation within the Royal Marines for being strict. “He was also extremely compassionate,” she said, “I remember that in Iraq he did feel a compassion for the ordinary Iraqi soldiers because they had nothing and were just fodder for guns.”

His father Clive Winter said: “He was very proud of what he was doing… He was very well liked which obviously says a lot. I shall miss him a lot, hearing his voice and various other things. I know Laura will miss him.”

Hamish Stuart-Smith, an old friend of Aaron’s from Suffolk College who now lives in Cambridge, described him as “a big softie”.

“You couldn’t meet a nicer chap,” he said. “He was completely professional at his job and thought through everything. For example his funeral, he’d already planned it all. They opened his locker and on top was what he wanted for his funeral. He updated his letters to his mum and wife every year, he was always thinking ahead.”

Jonathan Garnham, who lives in Wyverstone and was the executor of Aaron’s will, said: “He was just an amazing guy, very driven; he knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it and was just a really genuine guy.”

All of the tributes to Aaron note that he was first and foremost a family man who, “spoke constantly and passionately about his wife and young daughter”.

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In a statement confirming the tragic death of Colour Sergeant Aaron ‘Tiny’ Winter, the Ministry of Defence said he was “the archetypal paragon of what one expects of a Sergeant in the Royal Marines, highly professional, tough but compassionate.”

It goes on to say: “Above all else, Tiny was a family man. He spoke constantly and passionately about his wife and young daughter, and he visited his mum Mollie every week.”

C/Sgt Winter became well-known for walking around Norton Manor Camp in Taunton with his large Rhodesian Ridgeback dog Charlie.

Colonel Dave Kassapian, Commandant Commando Training Centre RM said: “Tiny was my enforcer of standards and discipline. Described as ruthless, relentless and remorseless… an indomitable character who compelled compliance through presence alone. He lived life by the Commando values of excellence, humility, integrity and self-discipline.”

Staff Sergeant Dave Loe, MPGS Commander said ‘Tiny’ was, “someone you could really trust and rely on, someone you could talk honestly and openly to, knowing you would neither be judged nor criticised, and you could count on his support whatever the problem… A light has gone out without so much as a flicker, and all we have left is the precious memory of how brightly it burned and the warmth it gave us.”

Cpl Edwards, PROVOST JNCO, said: “He was a mountain of a man with a character to match but despite this mountainous presence he was always approachable, he had time for everyone and offered advice in his own special way. He always spoke passionately about his wife and daughter and loved his horse-like dog Charlie.”

While Mr Alan Jarwood, CORPS Security Site Manager described him as: “A man to work with, a man who listens, a man of compassion, a man of many talents, a man of the times, a man who will be missed, a man whose last word would be, ‘Charlie, put that biscuit down.’”

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