Operations in Afghanistan

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman & Private Brian Tunnicliffe killed in Afghanistan

It is with much sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman of 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment and Private Brian Tunnicliffe of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) in a tragic accident in southern Afghanistan on Thursday 20 September 2007.

Both soldiers were deployed on Operation Palk Wahel with A (Grenadier) Company 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) and were conducting an essential re-supply during a pause in the fighting.

They were travelling in a Pinzgauer 4X4, 5km south west of their patrol base in an area north of Gereshk, on their way to a rendezvous point as part of a two vehicle replenishment patrol. The vehicle over-turned and tragically landed on its roof in an irrigation channel. One other passenger was able to escape without injury. Despite all of the efforts of the patrol, a medical officer, engineers and a quick reaction force who were on the scene within minutes, sadly Colour Sergeant Newman and Private Tunnicliffe were unable to be saved.

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman, aged 36, enlisted into the Territorial Army in Coventry in August 1994 as a member of the 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, later to become the West Midlands Regiment, and as of 1st September 2007, 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment. Throughout his Territorial Army career, Colour Sergeant Newman showed true commitment to operations having deployed to Afghanistan previously and Iraq on a further occasion in support of the regular Army. Due to his natural talent and hard work, he rose quickly through the ranks and became a formidable Colour Sergeant who was an outstanding model for the current day Territorial Army soldier.

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman (All rights reserved.)
Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman (All rights reserved.)

Colour Sergeant Newman volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan and had previously served with 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment (now 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment) on Operation HERRICK 1 in 2004/5 as an operations senior non commissioned officer and watch keeper. He had recently requested to stay with the Battalion for the next two years on a full time reserve service contract. He was going to be employed as Officer Commanding Machine Gun Platoon, an area where he had a specific expertise.

Whilst on Op HERRICK 6, he was employed once again as an operations senior non commissioned officer and assisted with the Company Quarter Master Sergeant party. He had recently returned from a demanding deployment with A (Grenadier) Company to Garmsir in southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Colour Sergeant Newman will be sorely missed by both his regular and Territorial Army colleagues and will be remembered as a professional, dedicated soldier and loving family man. His loss will be immeasurable for the Army but his love of the job and the love and pride he showed for his family should never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his wife Stephanie and his children Mackenzie, Josh and Tia at this very difficult time.

Commanding Officer - 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Yardley said:

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman joined 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in August 1994 at his local Territorial Army centre and was extremely proud of his Fusilier heritage. He was a mainstay of the West Midlands Regiment, later 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment. Phillip was a highly experienced and professional member of the Territorial Army having served in Afghanistan on two previous occasions in support of the regular Army and also in Iraq with a Territorial Army company comprised of soldiers from the West Midlands area. Using his knowledge and leadership he provided a strong role model for many young Territorial soldiers who were experiencing operations for the first time. Phillip volunteered again to deploy to Afghanistan and it was during this deployment that he was tragically killed.

As a member of the Territorial Army he was well known throughout all ranks of the Battalion as a larger than life character and his thirst for adventure was infectious for so many of those who were close to him. Phillip touched many people’s lives, here and abroad; he personified all that was good in a soldier, he led from the front and protected those who could not protect themselves. A tragic loss, but far from a wasted life, I, like so many people who served with Phillip feel extremely privileged to have known him. This hugely experienced and popular soldier will be missed by all ranks of this Battalion and also the wider Mercian Regiment which he served so well. He will be remembered as a professional, dedicated soldier and loving family man. His loss will be immeasurable for the Army but his love of the job and the love and pride he showed for his family should never be forgotten.

Phillip was a dedicated family man; he took great pride in his children’s achievements and was devoted to Stephanie, his wife. It is Stephanie and his three children Mackenzie, Josh and Tia that our thoughts and prayers are with at this difficult time.

Permanent Staff Administration Officer A (Fusilier) Company - 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, Captain Steve Hopkinson said:

Colour Sergeant Phil Newman was a first class, staunch Fusilier who wore the hackle with pride and was admired by all in A (Fusilier) Company. A veteran of four operational tours he provided knowledge, experience and realism into all aspects of Territorial Army life. A colleague, a confidant and great friend, I will miss his sense of humour and his outlook on life. A man who placed family first, he will be sadly missed. A true Fusilier!

Colleague and friend, Sergeant Billy Henry 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment said:

Colour Sergeant Phil Newman, a professional, dedicated soldier respected by all who knew him, Phil served for 13 years in the Territorial Army as a part of 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and West Midlands Regiment. He also undertook full time reserve service operational tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq in his time. A harder working or dedicated senior non commissioned officer you could not find. I served with Phil during training, Recce platoon and Sustained Fire platoon 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and as a part of A (Fusilier) Company, West Midlands Regiment. He was a close genuine friend, with a great sense of humour and a loving family man he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Colour Sergeant Newman’s wife, Stephanie said:

Phil was a loving husband and a brilliant father of three to Josh, 12, Mackenzie, 11, and Tia, 8. He took great pride in all of his achievements. His great sense of humour made the most of any situation. We are very proud of him. He died doing what he loved and we will all miss him very much.

Private Brian Tunnicliffe

Private Brian Tunnicliffe, aged 33, from Ilkeston, was enlisted into the Army in Derby and commenced his training at the Army Training Regiment Lichfield followed by the Infantry Training Centre Catterick in January 1997. He arrived at the Battalion in the summer of 1997, whilst it was based in Tidworth. He deployed soon after to Bosnia in 1998. He later deployed to Omagh, Northern Ireland in 2000 for a two year residential tour of duty and again to South Armagh in 2003. Additionally he had deployed to Belize and Kenya and exercised on HMS Nottingham.

Private Brian Tunnicliffe (All rights reserved.)
Private Brian Tunnicliffe (All rights reserved.)

As a senior Private soldier, Private Tunnicliffe had been employed in various roles over the last 10 years. He spent most of his career as a store man in A (Grenadier) Company, assisting many an Officer Commanding and Company Quarter Master Sergeant. His varied other tasks included a spell as Ram Orderly to Private Derby, the Regiment’s Swalesdale Derbyshire Ram mascot. Private Derby too was thankful for the companionship, never had he been exercised so much or cared for so diligently. More recently Private Tunnicliffe was employed in the motor transport platoon.

Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) Lieutenant Colonel Simon Banton said:

‘Private ‘Tunny’ Tunnicliffe was a true Regimental character known to every officer and soldier alike who has served with the Battalion over the past decade. He would always go the extra mile, ensuring those around him were looked after, whether it be his Company Commander or the soldiers in the Company. All he ever wanted was to make others happy; a thank you and pat on the back was always sufficient reward.

As soldiers past and present will testify, there isn’t a single man who has served in 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters/ 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) who won’t have a collection of ‘Tunnicliffe stories’. Private Tunnicliffe reflected the archetypal county infantryman, fiercely loyal to his regiment and his friends. A truly big hearted Ilkeston man through and through, our lives are darker now that his bright light has gone out.

Captain Adrian Garrett - Adjutant 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) said:

Private Tunnicliffe was one of the first soldiers that I met when I joined the Battalion. As the Company store man he always gave 100 % effort to the guys deploying onto the ground. His natural strength was renowned, although in true contrast you would never meet a warmer spirited individual with always a kind word. All Worcesters and Foresters, past and present have lost a close friend.

Captain Richard (Fred) Slaney - Quarter Master (Technical) 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) said:

Never afraid of hard work, Private Tunnicliffe would always get stuck in and offer a lending hand no matter what the task. He had two sides; on one side he was as strong as an ox, he could dig a trench and have brews on in no time. On the other side he loved baking cakes which he would proudly share with the lads, quite clearly he was very popular within the motor transport platoon. A real lively character who was full of chat, he will be truly missed.

Sergeant Brian Burgess - Motor Transport Platoon Sergeant 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) said:

Private Tunnicliffe was as strong as an ox, with a large heart to match. He went out of his way to help you, all he wanted was praise. Everyone knew ‘Tunni’, his character and that familiar voice.

Private Tunnicliffe’s wife, Lindsey said:

Beloved Husband and Best Friend. Loved the Army, always reliable and the worst cook in the world. We’ll miss you “Tunni

Defence Secretary Des Browne said:

I am deeply saddened by the deaths of Colour Sergeant Newman and Private Tunnicliffe. Both were dedicated, professional soldiers. Their loss strengthens our resolve to continue with our mission in Afghanistan and I commend their comrades for continuing the fight at what must be a difficult time for them. My thoughts and prayers are with their family, friends and comrades.