It is with great sadness and regret that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed the deaths of Captain Richard John Holmes and Private Lee Ellis in Al Amarah, Iraq, on Tuesday 28 February 2006.
Captain Holmes and Private Ellis, from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, were attached to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Al Amarah, Maysaan Province. They were killed when a roadside bomb exploded as they conducted a routine patrol. Tributes have today been paid to the two soldiers by their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Chiswell.
Captain Richard John Holmes
Richard Holmes was born on 1 November 1977. He joined the Parachute Regiment after studying law at Liverpool University. He lived in Winchester, Hampshire with his wife, Kate, whom he married shortly before deploying to Iraq in October 2005.
Richard joined the Army in January 2001. After completion of Officer Training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst he was commissioned into The Parachute Regiment. On successful completion of the demanding Pre-Parachute Selection, the Basic Parachute Course at RAF Brize Norton and the Platoon Commander’s Battle Course he joined B Company, the Second Battalion The Parachute Regiment. He served with the Battalion in Northern Ireland and also completed an earlier tour in Iraq. He completed an attachment with the The Highlanders before returning to The Parachute Regiment in April 2005 to command the Anti Tank Platoon. He deployed to Maysaan with D Company as part of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Battle Group in October 2005.
During his time in Maysaan, Captain Holmes worked tirelessly with the local Iraqi Security Forces. His principal work in Iraq was developing and mentoring a co-ordinated Iraqi Operations Centre, a task requiring tact, personality and patience. His efforts to learn Arabic and embrace the local culture, coupled with his natural sparkle and enthusiasm, endeared him greatly to the Iraqis with whom he worked so closely. This in turn made him highly effective in influencing and enhancing the organisation for which he was responsible. A fine ambassador for The Parachute Regiment, he will also be greatly missed by his many friends in The Highlanders and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
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.
In Iraq he made a real difference, displaying wise judgement 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.
As a reflection of his ability and character, he was due to leave us later this year to take up a prestigious instructor’s post as a Platoon Commander at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 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. Our thoughts are with his wife, family and many friends.
Private Lee Ellis
Private Lee Ellis was born on 24 January 1983. He lived in Wythenshawe, Manchester with his fiancee Sarah and his daughter Courtney.
Private Ellis joined the Army in September 2003 and completed his basic training at the Infantry Training Centre (Catterick). In April 2004 he joined D Company, the Second Battalion The Parachute Regiment. Suffering from an injury in 2005, he showed typical fortitude and determination to recover. He deployed to Iraq in October 2005 with D Company and operated in Maysaan Province as part of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Battle Group.
Private Ellis was a keen sportsman. An apprentice with Wigan Athletic Football Club, he gave up a career in professional football to join The Parachute Regiment. A committed Manchester City supporter; he made every effort to watch each televised match. An equally keen boxer, he looked forward to representing his Company and the Battalion on its return to Colchester.
Private Lee Ellis was not only a comrade but a close friend to many. He will be sorely missed by all those who were privileged to serve with and know him. Our thoughts are with his family and young daughter.
Lieutenant Colonel Chiswell said of Private Ellis:
Bright, enthusiastic and immensely popular, Private 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 made a genuine difference in Iraq.
Private 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.
The family of Private Ellis issued the following statement:
We are proud of Lee and of the fact, as was he, that he was in the Army and the Parachute Regiment.
The media are asked to respect the families’ privacy at this time.