WITH the world's eyes on Afghanistan as the country has fallen under Taliban rule for the first time since they were removed from power by US-led forces in 2001, many families across the country and world continue to mourn their loved ones, lost in the past 20 years.

The number of British military personnel killed in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 is 456.

Here, in no particular order, we pay tribute to the 16 Hampshire and Berkshire soldiers who died while serving in these operations.

Andover Advertiser: Private Peter Joe Cowton, from BasingstokePrivate Peter Joe Cowton, from Basingstoke
Private Peter Joe Cowton

From: Basingstoke

Died: July 29 2008

Private Peter Joe Cowton, 25, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, of The 2nd Battallion The Parachute Regiment, died on Tuesday, 29 July 2008.

At 6am local time, he left on a a routine patrol conducting reassurance and interdiction activities and at 8.47am encountered enemy forces.

A short while later the patrol reported that Private Cowton had been seriously wounded by a blast. Sadly, despite the efforts of the medical response team, he died as a result of his injuries.

Private Cowton’s parents, Karen and Robin Rolfe, said: “Peter was proud to serve his country, having already served in Iraq whilst a member of the Territorial Army.

“He was so ‘Proud to be a Paratrooper’ as we, his parents, and family were. His short regular Army career will not be forgotten, and his ‘Red Beret’ will have loving memories in our home.”

2 PARA’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joe O’Sullivan, added: “Pte Cowton was a remarkable man because he knew, as every member of the Battle Group knows, what he was risking and yet he chose to face a dangerous enemy in a harsh environment and to do so every day for his friends, his regiment and his country.”

Andover Advertiser: Sergeant Peter Anthony Rayner, from AndoverSergeant Peter Anthony Rayner, from Andover

Sergeant Peter Anthony Rayner

From: Born in Andover, lived in Bradford

Died: October 8 2010

Sergeant Peter Anthony Rayner 34, who was born in Andover, Hampshire, and of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of lancaster’s Regiment, was killed on Friday, october 8, 2010.

Sergeant Rayner was killed in action when he was struck by an improvised explosive device whilst leading his men on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

 Paying tribute, his wife Wendy said: “Fantastic, loving husband and father, son, son-in-law, brother and brother-in-law, who loved his job and doing something which he believed in. He will be sincerely missed by all who knew him.”

Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said: “Sergeant Pete Rayner told you exactly how things were. He was honest, loyal and always vocal. A true Lion of England and a man of high morals, guts and integrity.” 

Andover Advertiser: Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, from Winchester [Credit: David Gill]Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, from Winchester [Credit: David Gill]

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid 

From: Winchester

Died: October 31, 2009

Staff Sergeant Olaf Sean George Schmid, 30, who lived in Winchester, Hampshire and was of the Royal Logistic Corps, was killed on Saturday, October 31 2009.

He was killed in Helmand province while trying to diffuse a bomb.

His wife Christina said: “Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five month tour.

“He was my best friend and soul mate. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work. I am so proud of him.”

Lieutenant Col Robert Thomson, Commanding Officer 2 RIFLES Battle Group added: “SSgt Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met. I adored working with him.”

Andover Advertiser: Corporal David O'Connor, from HavantCorporal David O'Connor, from Havant

Corporal David O’Connor

From: Havant

Died: October 24, 2012

Corporal David O'Connor, 27, from Havant, Hampshire, of the 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed on Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

Corporal O’Connor was participating in a training patrol with the Afghan Local Police in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province. 

While en route to conduct that training, the patrol came under small arms fire near the village of Char Kutsa. 

Corporal O’Conner was fatally injured alongside his colleague and patrol medic, Corporal Day.

Paying tribute to his colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Jackson Commanding Officer, 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:  “Corporal Dave O’Connor was one of the best; he was loved and respected by those around him and was relentless in the pursuit of excellence in his duties. Utterly professional, his four operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan marked him as one of the most devoted individuals in the Commando. 

“Brave, committed and humorous it is difficult to find words that can possibly fill the void which has been left by this truly excellent junior commander; his loss is difficult to comprehend.” 

Andover Advertiser: Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith, from AldershotLance Corporal Matthew David Smith, from Aldershot

Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith

From: Aldershot

Died: August 10, 2012

Lance Corporal Matthew Smith, 26, from Aldershot, Hampshire, from the Corps of Royal Engineers was killed on Friday, August 10, 2012. 

Lance Corporal Smith was part of a troop tasked to build a new checkpoint next to the Nahr-e Bughra canal in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province, when he was hit by small arms fire. 

He received immediate first aid before being evacuated by helicopter but sadly died of his wounds.

Paying tribute, his mother, Caroline Smith, said: “A loving father to four beautiful children, who will be dearly missed by his fiancée, mother, father, family and friends. Our Hero, RIP.”

Lieutenant Colonel John Ridge, Commanding Officer, 26 Engineer Regiment, added: “Lance Corporal Smith embodied everything that is great about the Corps of Royal Engineers. He was incredibly hardworking, completely selfless and utterly professional.”

Andover Advertiser: Private Robert Wood, from MarchwoodPrivate Robert Wood, from Marchwood

Private Robert Wood

From: Marchwood

Died: February 14, 2011

Private Robert Wood, 28, from Marchwood, Hampshire, of the Royal Logistics Corps, was killed on Monday, February 14, 2011. 

He died alongside his colleague Private Dean Hutchinson in a fire in Camp Bastion, not thought to be linked to enemy action.

His family paid tribute, saying: “Rob was an adored and adoring son, partner, and father to his baby son. We are so immensely proud of him and he will live in our hearts forever.”

Lieutenant Colonel ST Hutchings, Commanding Officer Theatre Logistic Group, said: “Private Wood was part of a little-known, but highly specialist, trade within the Army. As a proud and professional Port Operator he had a key role in supporting operations worldwide.

“He had that innate ability to make friends easily, hugely popular and fiercely proud of being a Port Operator.”

Andover Advertiser: Sapper William Blanchard, from GosportSapper William Blanchard, from Gosport

Sapper William Blanchard

From: Gosport

Died: October 30, 2010

Sapper William Bernard Blanchard, 39, from Gosport, Hampshire, and of the 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment, was killed on Saturday, October 30 2010.

Sapper Blanchard was killed as a result of a gunshot wound suffered whilst he was dealing with a suspect explosive device in the Nahr-e Saraj (North) area of Helmand province.

Paying tribute, his wife, Suzanne Blanchard, said: “Will was a wonderful husband, son, brother, father, brother-in-law, son-in-law and friend. 

“Sorely missed, always in our hearts, never forgotten by his devastated family, friends and colleagues and his beloved wife.”

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis, Commanding Officer of the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Task Force, added: “Sapper Blanchard was a father figure to the younger elements of the squadron.

“He was a perfectionist but one who had endless patience with his fellow soldiers, he was both impeccable and irreplaceable; people like Sapper Blanchard only come along once in a blue moon.”

Andover Advertiser: Marine Richard Hollington, from PetersfieldMarine Richard Hollington, from Petersfield

Marine Richard Hollington

From: Petersfield

Died: June 2020, 2010

Marine Richard Hollington, 23, from Petersfield, Hampshire, of the 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed on Sunday, June 2020 2010. 

On June 12 2010, Bravo Company was conducting a reassurance patrol in Afghanistan for the local nationals. At approximately 4.16pm local time, Marine Hollington was caught in an explosion.

He was immediately evacuated to Bastion Role 3 Hospital where his condition was listed as critical. With his parents and brothers present, he sadly died of his wounds.

His family’s tribute read; “Richard will leave a huge numbing hole in the lives of his family, friends and Royal Marine colleagues.

“He chose to live his days as a lion and to us, and we believe his friends, he was the biggest, if softest, lion in the pride - how proud of him we all are.”

Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, Commanding Officer, 40 Commando Group, Combined Force Sangin, said: “Marine Richard Hollington was one of my finest. He was bright, intrepid, determined and full of character; he was very much at the heart of 11 Troop.”

Andover Advertiser: Staff Sergeant Chris Muir, from RomseyStaff Sergeant Chris Muir, from Romsey

Staff Sergeant Chris Muir

From: Romsey

Died: March 31 2003

Staff Sergeant Chris Muir, 32, from Romsey, Hampshire and of the Royal Logistic Corps, was killed on March 31 2003.

He was killed during an explosive ordnance disposal operation in southern Iraq.

His wife, Gillian, said: “Chris was the sort of person that could light up a room just by being in it. He had a fantastic sense of humour and always tried to see the funny side, no matter what the situation.”

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Dolamore MBE, his Commanding Officer, added: “He will be remembered for his rich sense of humour and his sharp and clever wit. He was a very strong character, an outstanding technician, and a highly effective leader.”

Andover Advertiser: Captain Richard John Holmes, from WinchesterCaptain Richard John Holmes, from Winchester

Captain Richard John Holmes

From: Winchester 

Died: February 28, 2006

Captain Richard John Holmes, 28 from Winchester, Hampshire, of the 2nd Batallion The Parachute Regiment, died on Tuesday, February 28 2006.

Captain Holmes was killed when a roadside bomb exploded as he conducted a routine patrol.

Lieutenant Colonel James Chiswell, his Commanding Officer, 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 with both The Parachute Regiment and The Highlanders, and was deeply respected by those he led."

Andover Advertiser: Corporal Richard Green, from ReadingCorporal Richard Green, from Reading

Corporal Richard Green

From: Reading

Died: March 2, 2010

Corporal Richard Green, 23, from Reading, Berkshire, of the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

Corporal Green died as a result of small arms fire near Sangin in Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Paying tribute, his family said: “Richard was a larger than life character who packed so much into his short life. 

“We are so proud of him and will miss him more than words can ever say, but we do take comfort from the thought that, if there is a heaven, he is now having a laugh with his friends whose lives have been taken, just like his, over the past year.”

Andover Advertiser: Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell, from Hampstead MarshallLieutenant Douglas Dalzell, from Hampstead Marshall

Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell

From: Hampstead Marshall

Died: February 18, 2010

Lieutenant Dalzell, 27, from Hampstead Marshall, near Newbury, Berkshire and of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed on Thursday, February 18, 2010.

He was killed as a result of an explosion during Operation MOSHTARAK in the Babaji area of Nahr-e-Saraj in central Helmand .

Lieutenant Dalzell’s family paid the following tribute: “Our darling son and brother to Olivia and Angus, you touched the hearts of so many. You are our world and we love you with all our hearts. You only ever looked for the good in people and kept strong and happy in all you did. You are a true hero and we will miss you forever.”

Lieutenant Colonel Toby Gray, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, added: “A bright light has gone out in this glorious regiment. In his memory I know all ranks will rise to the challenges of the coming months so that Dougie’s sacrifice is not in vain - he would want us to push hard to the end. He did.”

Andover Advertiser: Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher, from ReadingRifleman Cyrus Thatcher, from Reading

Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher

From: Reading

Died: June 2 2009

Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher, 19, from Reading, Berkshire and of the 2nd Battalion The Rifles was killed on Tuesday, June 2 2009.

He died as a result of an explosion whilst he was on a patrol near Gereshk. 

Rifleman Thatcher’s parents, Robin and Helena, and brothers Zac and Steely, gave the following tribute:

Cyrus was a much-loved son and brother whose loss we will never recover from. He loved his job and was proud to serve his country. We will always be immensely proud of him. He will forever be in our hearts and minds.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Rifles, added: “He was one of the very best - a real thinking Rifleman whose questions were always perceptive and on the money.”

Andover Advertiser: Marine Benjamin Reddy, from AscotMarine Benjamin Reddy, from Ascot

Marine Benjamin Reddy

From: Ascot

Died: March 6 2007

Marine Benjamin Reddy, 22, from Ascot, Berkshire, of the 42 Commando Royal Marines was killed on Tuesday, March 6 2007.

Marine Reddy was killed when his unit came under fire during a deliberate clearance operation in the Kajaki area of Helmand Province.

In tribute, Marine Reddy’s parents, Phil and Liz, and brother Jamie, issued the following statement: “This is the saddest day in our lives. Our son Ben’s death has left us feeling totally empty. He was and always will be our hero, not only as a son but as a brother to Jamie. We want to wish all the personnel serving in action abroad a safe return to their families.”

His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Holmes Royal Marines, added: “Ben Reddy was a dedicated Royal Marine. He will be remembered as an honest and unselfish man who was conscientious in his approach to his duties and always worked hard for his friends and colleagues.”

Andover Advertiser: Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, from WindsorLieutenant Ralph Johnson, from Windsor

Lieutenant Ralph Johnson 

From: Windsor

Died: August 1 2006

Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, 24, from Windsor, Berkshire, and of Household Cavalry Regiment, died on Tuesday, August 1 2006.

He was killed following an incident involving insurgent forces in northern Helmand Province.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Smyth-Osbourne, Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment, based in Windsor, said of him: “He was brave, determined and thoroughly loyal to his soldiers and superiors. 

“With his death the Household Cavalry Regiment has suffered the loss of an exemplary young officer and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Andover Advertiser: Lance Corporal Peter Edward Craddock, from NewburyLance Corporal Peter Edward Craddock, from Newbury

Lance Corporal Peter Edward Craddock 

From: Newbury

Died: March 27 2006

Lance Corporal Peter Edward Craddock, 31, from Newbury, Berkshire and of 1st Battalion The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment died on Monday, March 27 2006.

His death was as a result of a road traffic accident in Lashkar Gah, Southern Afghanistan, with enemy forces not thought to be involved.

Lance Corporal Craddock’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel David Brown, said of him: “You do not get soldiers any better than Lance Corporal Craddock. His loss on his multiple’s final patrol before completion of their 6-month operational tour of Afghanistan is an utter tragedy. We all felt numb at the news of his death."