Operations in Iraq

Eight personnel from 3 Commando Brigade killed in Iraq

At around midnight GMT on Friday 21 March 2003, a US Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed south of the Kuwait border with US and UK personnel aboard; there were no survivors. Eight personnel from 3 Commando Brigade died in the accident, along with four US aircrew.

The 3 Commando Brigade personnel were:

  • Major Jason Ward, Royal Marines, UK Landing Force Command Support Group, aged 34, from Torquay in Devon

  • Captain Philip Stuart Guy, Royal Marines, aged 29, from Skipton, Yorkshire

  • Warrant Officer Second Class Mark Stratford, Royal Marines, aged 39, from Plymouth

  • Colour Sergeant John Cecil, Royal Marines, UK Landing Force Command Support Group, aged 35, from Plymouth

  • Sergeant Les Hehir, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 34, from Poole in Dorset

  • Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Evans, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, aged 24 from Llandudno

  • Operator Mechanic (Communications) Second Class Ian Seymour RN, 148 Commando Battery Royal Artillery, aged 29 years, from Poole in Dorset

  • Marine Sholto Hedenskog, Royal Marines, aged 26, from Cape Town, South Africa

Major Jason George Ward RM

Major Jason Ward (All rights reserved.)
Major Jason Ward, Royal Marines (All rights reserved.)

Major Ward RM was 34 years old.

The media are asked to respect the family’s privacy.

Colour Sergeant John Cecil RM

Colour Sergeant John Cecil (All rights reserved.)
Colour Sergeant John Cecil, Royal Marines (All rights reserved.)

His family and friends issued the following statement:

It is with great sadness that the family and friends of Colour Sergeant John Cecil, Royal Marines, announce his untimely death in the tragic helicopter crash last Friday.

John leaves behind a great many friends and relatives and our thoughts and prayers go out to Wendy Cecil, his children Nicholas and Jodie, his beloved daughter Paige and his brother David Cecil, all who reside in the Plymouth area.

John was proud to be a Royal Marine, proud to be British and proud to represent his country, a country dedicated into making the world a safer place to live in.

Sergeant Les Hehir (pronounced ‘HEAR’), of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery

Sergeant Les Hehir (All rights reserved.)
Sergeant Les Hehir (All rights reserved.)

Aged 34, Les was married, with two sons, and lived in Poole, Dorset.

Major John Francis is Families Officer with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery at its Plymouth base. He said:

The loss of three fine members is acutely felt by us all. That they served with the same Battery only heightens the sense of grief. Together with the deaths of our two Army personnel, Sergeant Hehir and Lance Bombardier Evans, we mourn also for Ian Seymour, a naval rating who had been with 29 Commando since 1999 and was very much a part of Regiment life. Our thoughts remain very much with their families at this time.

The media are requested to respect the privacy of the family at this very difficult time.

Picture handling note

The family have specifically requested that, if the photograph published here is reproduced, Sergeant Hehir’s sons are included.

Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Karl Evans

Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Karl Evans (All rights reserved.)
Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Karl Evans (All rights reserved.)

Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Karl Evans, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, was 24 years old and from Llandudno.

Nicknamed ‘Welly’, he had been in the army since 1996, passing through ATR Pirbright and after completing training at Larkhill successfully completed the Commando Course in December 1996. He had served in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. He was engaged to Miss Rebecca Williams and his younger brother is serving in the same unit.

His father, Gordon Evans, gave the following statement:

On behalf of my whole family, I wish to say that we are all devastated by the loss of our son Llywelyn Karl Evans. Whilst we are deeply saddened, we are, and always will be proud of him. We would like to thank all of the family, friends and local people for their flowers and messages of support. This has given us great strength.

Major John Francis is Families Officer with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery at its Plymouth base. He said:

The loss of three fine members is acutely felt by us all. That they served with the same Battery only heightens the sense of grief. Together with the deaths of our two Army personnel, Sergeant Hehir and Lance Bombardier Evans, we mourn also for Ian Seymour, a naval rating who had been with 29 Commando since 1999 and was very much a part of Regiment life. Our thoughts remain very much with their families at this time.

The media are asked to respect the family’s privacy.

Operator Mechanic (Communications) Second Class Ian Seymour RN

On 9 April 2003, the funeral took place of Operator Mechanic (Communications) Second Class Ian Seymour RN, killed in a helicopter accident in the Gulf on 21 March 2003.

The funeral followed a service at St Michael’s Church, Hamworthy, Poole, and was conducted with full military honours.

Marine Sholto Hedenskog, Royal Marines

Marine Sholto Hedenskog (All rights reserved.)
Marine Sholto Hedenskog (All rights reserved.)

Marine Hedenskog RM was 26 years old and from Cape Town, South Africa.

Sholto joined the Royal Marines in 2001 after graduating at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Geography, Human Kinetics and Ergonomics.

He loved adventure and the outdoors and as a Royal Marine underwent training in the UK, Norway, the Mediterranean and Oman. He deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002 attached to 3 Commando Brigade and joined Brigade Patrol Troop (BPT) later that year subsequently deploying to Iraq in January 2003.

BPT was made up of some 30 Royal Marines, five of whom lost their lives in the fatal helicopter crash during the very early stages of Op TELIC.

Sholto started his school career at Valhalla Primary School. He then attended Sutherland High School where he matriculated in 1994. He actively participated in athletics and rugby and was awarded Colours for Athletics and Honours for Rugby.

Sholto will be remembered for his intelligence, wit, loyalty and his empathetic nature - he lived well, laughed often and loved much.

An Alder tree is growing as a living memory to Sholto near the Royal Marines Memorial at The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.