Tributes to two Colchester soldiers

TRIBUTES were paid last night to two Essex-based soldiers who were killed in a bomb blast in Iraq earlier this week.Captain Richard Holmes, 28, and Private Lee Ellis, 23, of Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, in Colchester, were killed after an improvised device exploded in an abandoned car near a playground in Al Amarah, Southern Iraq.

By Juliette Maxam

TRIBUTES were paid last night to two Essex-based soldiers who were killed in a bomb blast in Iraq earlier this week.

Captain Richard Holmes, 28, and Private Lee Ellis, 23, of Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, in Colchester, were killed after an improvised device exploded in an abandoned car near a playground in Al Amarah, Southern Iraq. A third soldier was injured but his wounds were not life threatening.

The bomb exploded as British Army Land Rovers passed the playground on routine patrol on Tuesday.


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Colleagues later arrived at the scene of the attack and were stoned by an angry mob including young children.

Capt Holmes, of Winchester, was on his second tour of Iraq. Lieutenant Colonel James Chiswell, commanding officer of 2 Para, said Capt Holmes had been one of the regiment's “rising stars” and had made a real difference through his work in Iraq.

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He said: “Charming, compassionate and bright, Richard was one of the Parachute Regiment's rising stars. He brought a warm humour and enormous professionalism to all he touched. He excelled as a young commander and was deeply respected by those he led.

“In Iraq he made a real difference, displaying wise judgment and total dedication in his efforts to progress the efficiency of the Iraqi Police in Al Amarah.

“His determination to understand and share in the local culture was typical of his positive outlook and, as always, reaped dividends and won him many friends.”

“Kind, fun and warm-humoured, he was a pleasure to be with and always saw the lighter side of life. With his passing, the Parachute Regiment has lost a fine soldier and officer.”

He leaves a wife, Kate, who he married shortly before leaving for Iraq in October.

Pte Ellis, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, was described as “an outstanding soldier”.

Lt Col Chiswell said: “Bright, enthusiastic and immensely popular, Pte Ellis displayed all the qualities of a first class Paratrooper.

“His strength of character and dedication were reflected in his determination to overcome injury and to join his friends and comrades on operations in southern Iraq.

“His comradeship stood out; he was always willing to help others, and invariably did so with a smile on his face.

“Hardworking, professional and with an irrepressible sense of humour, he showed enormous compassion in his dealing with the local Iraqis he encountered, whether they were police, civilians or children.

“He was a natural team player who always looked out for others and who was always upbeat and focused. Above all else he was a total professional, dedicated to his task.”

He added: “Pte Ellis was an outstanding soldier, comrade and friend. He will be sorely missed by all those who have served with him and our thoughts are with his fiancee and family.”

Pte Ellis had been a keen sportsman and had given up an apprenticeship with Wigan Athletic Football club to join the Army. He was also a boxer and had been due to represent his company and battalion on its return to Colchester.

He leaves a fiancee Sarah and a daughter Courtney.

The Paras are coming to the end of a six-month tour of Iraq and are due home next month. The second battalion has been attached to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards as part of 7 Armoured Brigade.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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