Tributes pour in for dead soldier

HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a “universally respected” and “inspirational” Colchester-based soldier who died in an accident in Afghanistan.

James Hore

HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to the seventh Colchester-based soldier to die in Afghanistan within the past three weeks.

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps has been remembered as “universally respected” and “inspirational”.

The father-of-two was killed after his vehicle rolled and he was trapped under it during a patrol from Sangin to Camp Bastion on Friday.

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The 32-year-old former paratrooper was severely injured and he was rushed to the medical facilities at Camp Bastion where despite their best efforts he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Two other soldiers received minor injuries in the incident.

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Another soldier, from the 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was killed on Saturday when he stepped on a mine believed to have been left over from the Soviet occupation of the country.

He was killed instantly, taking the number of British service personnel who have lost their lives since the start of operations in Afghanistan in November 2001 to 110.

And a full military funeral is to be held in Colchester today for Lance Corporal James Bateman of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

The Garrison town is set to come to a standstill and following the service in St Peter's Church, the cortege will pass along Colchester High Street.

Lance Corporal Bateman and Pte Sean Doherty were killed in Taliban fire on June 12 during a routine foot patrol near their base in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand Province.

Just four days earlier on June 8 Pte Charles David Murray, Pte Nathan Cuthbertson, 19, and Pte Daniel Gamble, 22, were killed in a suicide blast by a lone insurgent as their foot patrol returned to base in the Upper Sangin Valley.

Last week Sergeant Major Michael Williams, who was also a member 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was killed when he came under Taliban fire.

WO2 Shirley's tragic death now brings the total number of Colchester based soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the last three weeks to seven.

Paying tribute Lt Col Rufus McNeil OBE, his commanding officer, said: “The loss of WO2 Dan Shirley has come as a huge shock to every member of the regiment.

“He was known to all and universally respected. More than that, he was liked and admired. He was a perfect role model for young soldiers. He was fit, irrepressibly enthusiastic and superbly professional.”

WO2 Shirley served as a member of the Paras for 12 years before becoming a member of the Army Physical Training Corps.

“He was fiercely proud of being a soldier and his love of the job shone through in everything he did,” Lt Col McNeil said. “In Afghanistan he ran the Regimental Training Wing, where he devoted his seemingly limitless energy to teaching others how to defend themselves and avoid danger. It was a role he often took out onto the ground and he was on patrol, protecting others, when a tragic accident claimed his life.

“His memorial will be the skills that he imparted. They have already saved lives and will save more. This is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary soldier.”

Capt Ian Bruce, his commanding officer in the field, said: “He was renowned for leading from the front. His outstanding personal soldiering skills, infectious enthusiasm and sense of fun rubbed off on all those who worked with him.

“WO2 Shirley had that rare ability to get that little extra out of everyone he taught. He is sorely missed by us all.”

And Sgt Nick Murphy, his friend and colleague, said: “Dan was massively proud of his profession and never let anyone forget that he was originally a soldier with the Parachute Regiment.

“He was always talking about his family and loved taking his children to watch his beloved Leicester City. We will all miss his endless banter, energy and sense of humour.”

WO2 Shirley was born on in December 1975 and grew up in his hometown of Leicester.

He joined the army in August 1992 with 2 Para before switching to the Army Physical Training Corps in April 2004 before arriving at 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in June 2006.

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