Operations in Afghanistan

Captain Sean Dolan killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence confirms the death of Captain Sean Dolan of 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Saturday 30 June 2007.

Captain Dolan was taking part in an operation aimed at maintaining the pressure on the Taliban - focusing on the Sangin Valley area. He was acting as a Liaison Officer between the battalion and a joint US Task Force and Afghan National Army operation.

Captain Dolan, and the forces that he was attached to, were observing a substantial force of Taliban fighters from the edge of a vantage point, when they came under fire from Taliban mortars. The first mortar round severely wounded Captain Dolan and a US soldier. Both were medically evacuated to ISAF medical facilities at Camp Bastion where Captain Dolan was pronounced dead on arrival by medical staff.

Captain Sean Dolan (All rights reserved.)
Captain Sean Dolan (All rights reserved.)

Captain Sean Dolan, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters (29th/45th of Foot)

Captain Sean Dolan was born in 1966 and joined the Army in 1985 as a Junior Leader, his leadership qualities having been identified from the early age of 16.

Captain Dolan had a long and illustrious career serving on multiple tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, as well as serving in the USA, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kenya and Belize. This was his second tour of Afghanistan.

It was during his tour of South Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1994 that he was awarded a Mention in Dispatches. At the time he was a Platoon Sergeant operating from a military observation post. His platoon came under mortar attack and, rather than take cover, he reported what he saw over the radio and guided other patrols to the mortar firing point. This led to the arrest of a number of terrorist suspects.

Captain Dolan was undoubtedly regarded by all who had the honour of serving with him as the finest soldier of his generation. He had recently been awarded a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), a unique award in that it is given by gift of the Army to a selected soldier who has performed good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service with conduct judged to be irreproachable.

Captain Dolan, known as ‘Dollar’ during his Warrant Officer and Senior Non Commissioned Officer career, spent the majority of his career as a member of the Battalion’s Reconnaissance Platoon (Recce Pl). The Recce Pl is the Battalion’s senior platoon and in order to join its ranks, the Battalion’s best soldiers undertake an annual arduous selection cadre.

He joined the platoon as a private soldier in 1985 and finished his time in the Platoon in 2002 as the Reconnaissance Platoon Second in Command, holding the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2. This period was broken only by his selection to instruct at the Platoon Commanders’ Division as a Colour Sergeant, training new officers. Many an officer will testify to being considerably better for having been under his wing.

Captain Dolan was selected for a commission from the ranks after serving as the Regimental Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment. He was commissioned in April 2006 and ably undertook the appointments of both Families Officer and Regimental Careers Management Officer.

Despite being a 40-year-old Late Entry (LE) Officer, Captain Dolan would not allow his LE fraternity to convince him that it was now time for his pipe and slippers - as they had jokingly tried to only weeks ago. He was a highly capable, multi-talented soldier and an exceptional LE Officer from the outset, hugely respected across a number of generations and across the spectrum of ranks.

He was married in 1988 to his wife, ‘Mitch’ (Michaline), and has one son, Ashley. Captain Dolan was a devoted and private family man, he was particularly proud that his son was due to start university this September. Originally from the West Midlands, his family established their home in Chester where the Battalion were previously based.

Captain Dolan was, and his family subsequently became, massive Wolverhampton Wanderers fans. On his last day as a Warrant Officer - before he commissioned from Regimental Sergeant Major to Officer - his peers played him a video message from Wolves Manager and former England player Paul Ince. They had arranged for Mr Ince to send Captain Dolan a personal video message and a signed team shirt to congratulate him on his achievement.

Captain Dolan had recently returned from a short work visit to the UK, managing to spend a couple of days with his family.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Westley MC, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, said:

Captain Sean Dolan was killed in action whilst carrying out his duties as a liaison officer to US Forces in Hyderabad, Upper Gereshk Valley on 30 June 2007. This is simply the biggest blow that I have suffered in 23 years service and I know that all ranks of 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and all that knew Sean, will be feeling the same.

He was the complete man and an unsurpassed military talent. Strong, intelligent and immensely fit, he was the consummate professional and had a work ethic that served as a model for everyone who was privileged enough to serve with him.

As my Regimental Sergeant Major he was invaluable and a source of support and advice; as my Regimental Career Management Officer he was wise, committed and innovative; as my friend he was irreplaceable. He was genuinely loved and respected throughout the Battalion. Officers, Warrant Officers and the youngest soldiers alike looked up to him and sought his approval.

Our hearts go out to Mitch and Ashley, for whom he was the world and indomitable. The rest of us can only remember with pride the finest soldier and best bloke we had ever met. If ever anyone in our generation was the epitome of the Worcester Forester, FIRM to the end, it was Sean Dolan. A great man and so sorely missed.

Major Gary Cotterill, Quartermaster Main, 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment said:

Sean was in my section when I was a Section Commander, throughout his career he was nothing but professional, his glittering career speaks for itself. He always wanted to do nothing else but soldiering.

He died doing what he loved. He was a good friend to so many people, a funny guy, I’m absolutely gutted.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Neil Cresswell, Regimental Sergeant Major, 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment said:

It is hard to express in a few short words the immense loss that will be felt by the Battalion and myself at the loss of a great soldier, mentor and friend.

He was a thoroughly professional and diligent soldier throughout and my thoughts and condolences go out to Mitch, Ashley and his family with the reassurance that he died doing what he loved. We will all miss him.

I have had the honour and privilege to have served with Capt Sean Dolan from private soldier to Regimental Sergeant Major over a span of 23 years in many theatres, much of this time serving with him in the Reconnaissance Platoon. Sean would always offer advice and guidance to both myself and others which is why the role as Regimental Careers Management Officer was so well suited to him.

He was a thoroughly professional and diligent soldier throughout and my thoughts and condolences go out to Mitch, Ashley and his family with the reassurance that he died doing what he loved. We will all miss him.

Cpl Nigel Cope, Capt Dolan’s Driver and Gunner in Bosnia 1996, said:

Captain Dolan could be dogmatic, doing something tomorrow was never good enough - it had to be done today. He didn’t do this to mess us around, he did it because he was a professional.

He wasn’t fazed by anything, always thought things through, never rushed into making a rash decision. You had to understand his sense of humour, he was a funny man. I served with him for 17 years, he will be sorely missed.

Capt Dolan’s brother, Andrew, paid the following tribute to him:

We all lost something exceptional as a result of Sean’s tragic death. Our mother and father have lost a special son, I and my sister have lost a brother, but to me he was more than that, he was my best friend. Our loss is painful enough, but my heart and feelings are more so for his wife Mitch and their son Ashley.

Sean had two families, the Army and his personal life, and those close to him knew that. Mitch and Ashley always knew how much they meant to him. It is tragic that Sean will never get to see his son Ashley start at university in september, but we know that Ashley will succeed in what he does, that will be his dad Sean coming out in him. I know how proud Sean was of you Ashley and how much he loved you and your mom Mitch. That love was always reciprocated by you both and I know how proud you were to have a dad like Sean.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said:

Captain Dolan’s death is a tragic loss and my thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time. I also send my condolences to his colleagues in Afghanistan who I know have felt his loss deeply.

It is obvious his dedication to the task at hand and his commitment to developing the younger soldiers around him were second to none. He died trying to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan and his sacrifice will not be forgotten.