Operations in Afghanistan

Corporal Andrew Steven Roberts and Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence confirms that Corporal Andrew Steven Roberts and Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi were killed in Afghanistan on Friday 4 May 2012.

Ministry of Defence crest
Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi (All rights reserved.)
Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi (All rights reserved.)

Corporal Roberts and Private Silibaravi were both of 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistics Corps and attached to the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Battle Group, serving as part of Combined Force Burma. They were killed in an indirect fire attack on Forward Operating Base Ouellette, in the northern part of Nahr-e Saraj district.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the deaths of Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi; two soldiers who were respected by their colleagues as much for their personalities as for their professionalism and commitment to duty.

They have given their lives defending the UK’s national security in a campaign vital to preventing terrorism from succeeding and spreading; their sacrifice will not be forgotten. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the two families, as well as friends and colleagues left behind.

Corporal Andrew Roberts (All rights reserved.)
Corporal Andrew Roberts (All rights reserved.)

Corporal Andrew Steven Roberts

Corporal Andrew Roberts was a Section Commander in 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps.

He deployed to Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 16 on 11 March 2012 to command an Advanced Search Team, in the Operations Squadron of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force. As an Advanced Search Team Commander, Corporal Roberts was responsible for leading his men in order to detect Improvised Explosive Devices in high risk areas.

Corporal Roberts’ Advanced Search Team had completed in-theatre Role Specific Training before assisting in coaching other teams undergoing this training. On 18 April 2012, Corporal Roberts deployed in support of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh to the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province.

Whilst there, Corporal Roberts’ team conducted a number of search operations to clear irrigation ditches and enhance the security of operating bases as well as deploying to provide direct Counter Improvised Explosive Device support to British patrols.

In leading his team in this role, Corporal Roberts not only facilitated freedom of movement for International Security Assistance Forces and Afghan National Security Forces, but also undoubtedly saved the lives of both Afghans and International personnel.

Corporal Roberts was 32 years old and was born in Middlesbrough. He joined the Army in 1998 and had been serving as a Section Commander in 23 Pioneer Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps based in Bicester, Oxfordshire since 2008. He had served on operations in Bosnia and Iraq and this was his second tour of Afghanistan.

He was a very able and plucky sportsman and a highly regarded physical training instructor. He will always be remembered for his trenchant efforts in the Regimental boxing ring and his enthusiastic Squadron PT sessions. He was a ‘larger than life’ character and extremely well known in the Regiment; his loss will cast a long shadow.

A forthright, determined and professional Junior Non Commissioned Officer, Corporal Roberts leaves behind Lindsey, his daughters Jessica, aged 6, and Kayla, 3, and son Kyle, 5; Paula and Josh; and his mother Pauline and his father Stephen. He also leaves his brothers and sisters Tracey, Mark, Darren, Michael and Emma

Corporal Roberts’ children paid the following tribute:

For our brave Dad who went away to build sand castles and stop the bad men hurting people. We love you to the moon and back. You are an angel in Heaven now looking down on us all, we wish yesterday had never happened and you were still here to phone us and take us out. You were the best Dad, we remember all the fun things we did, we will never forget you and will love you forever. You are our Hero and we will pray for you always.

Corporal Roberts’ girlfriend, Paula Ewers, paid the following tribute:

Andrew truly was a hero and I’m so proud of what he achieved, he was such a special, kind and caring person. I was blessed to have spent the past two and a half years with Andrew. He made me and my son Josh so happy. I have lost my soul mate and my best friend. The memories I have of our time together I will hold in my heart forever. Sweet dreams my hero all my love always. Paula & Josh.

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Bell, Commanding Officer, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

The tragic loss of Corporal Roberts has deeply shocked the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force and I am sure will have a similar effect on his home unit, 23 Pioneer Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps. My thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with his family and all of his friends at this most difficult of times.

A talented Junior Non-Commissioned Officer, Corporal Roberts had leadership qualities in spades. He was fit and determined and set exactly the right example, truly inspiring his subordinates to do their very best. Quite new to the specialist world of Advanced Search, he had taken to this role with gusto and led a highly effective Advanced Search Team. His efforts were making a difference in Helmand province

During demanding times, both physically and mentally, here in Afghanistan, Corporal Roberts continually stepped up to the plate and proved entirely worthy of the authority and responsibility bestowed upon him as a Corporal. His upbeat, determined nature balanced with humour, humility and understanding allowed him to command his Advanced Search Team extremely effectively. His team were utterly reliable due to his professionalism and leadership abilities.

His Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force have today lost an inspiring and popular junior commander. He leaves a noticeable gap in our ranks here in Afghanistan and will be missed, but certainly not forgotten. His family and friends, and particularly his young children are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.

Lieutenant Colonel Dom Fletcher, Commanding Officer, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal Andrew Roberts, known to everyone as ‘Ginge’, is a man I am proud to say I knew well. This junior commander was the epitome of a Pioneer soldier; brave, fit, robust and a ‘salt of the earth character’, who led his soldiers from the front and by example at all times. Ginge had a very infectious and engaging sense of humour, that made him hugely popular with all ranks and he could lighten any dark moment with his cheeky wit and northern banter.

He was a selfless man and one of complete integrity. He took great pride in his role as the Section Commander of an Advanced Search Team serving with the Counter IED and Search Task Force in Afghanistan and he was always looking out for the welfare of his soldiers. ‘Ginge’ is quite simply irreplaceable, and all of us in 23 Pioneer Regiment will miss him terribly.

Corporal ‘Ginge’ Roberts volunteered to deploy as an Advanced Search Team Commander an Op HERRICK 16, despite knowing the risks of operating in this role. His team was attached to 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Battle Group, serving as part of Combined Force Burma in an austere forward operating base.

True to his usual enthusiastic, gritty and positive character, he wanted to be at the ‘sharp end’ on operations with his soldiers, where he could instil his professional standards and safeguard his troops in this demanding role. He died amongst his blokes, in the field, doing the job he loved. In our close knit and family Regiment, he will always be remembered with pride, for the sacrifice he has made for his country.

He has given 14 years’ faithful and unflinching service to 23 Pioneer Regiment; he was an experienced and highly capable assault pioneer and a thoroughly dedicated soldier. He has served on operations in Bosnia and Iraq and this was his second tour of Afghanistan. He was a very able and plucky sportsman and a highly regarded physical training instructor.

He will always be remembered for his trenchant efforts in the Regimental boxing ring and his ‘enthusiastic’ Squadron PT sessions. He was a ‘larger than life’ character and extremely well known in the Regiment; his loss will cast a long shadow that only time will begin to heal. He will live on in our memories and we will remember him for what he was, an outstanding pioneer soldier.

Our thoughts at this tragic time are with Lindsey, his daughters Jessica and Kayla and his son Kyle; Paula and Josh; and his parents Stephen and Pauline.

Major Ben Hawkins, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Corporal Roberts was an exceptional character; you never failed to know that he was around. He always had time to flash you his cheeky grin and to share a bit of banter no matter what the time, day or night. He was seldom happier than when busy with his Section, he loved being around them, the mark of a real leader.

His dedication to his rehabilitation from a minor injury before the tour was impressive and his efforts were soon rewarded with his recovery and fitness to deploy. He soon earned his spurs as a Search Team Commander both on test tasks and then in the field undertaking a number of high risk and high assurance searches. He was a well respected team commander who had the skill of being able to motivate his men effectively; deftly choosing his style to get the absolute best out of them.

He was always the life and soul of the party and would always be at the centre of any activity, normally the ring leader and the one causing all the mischief. His ability to have fun in all circumstances endeared him to all who met him.

My Squadron has lost a real character, who will be sorely missed, particularly by his exceptionally close team, but also by those of us who have got to know him over the past few months. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Major Derren Battersby, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal Roberts was entrusted to lead a team in a highly dangerous role and in a hazardous environment. As the Commander of an Advanced Search Team, he displayed unstinting leadership. He was absolutely dedicated to the men under his charge, and they were devoted to him in equal measure. His energy was infectious and this permeated to every member of his Team. Resoundingly positive, he possessed a keen, dry humour which maintained the Team’s morale in whatever circumstance they found themselves.

He was a strong supporter of the Regiment, the Squadron and the Corporals’ Mess. He was immensely proud of the Pioneers and his Team. Throughout his career, whether it was in the field or in barracks, he commanded the respect of all that had the pleasure of working with him.

The squadron has lost one of their finest. He will be sorely missed by all of us, but the loss felt by us cannot match that of his family. My most heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family at this most distressing of times.

Captain Andy Shannon, Squadron Second-in-Command, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

I have only known Corporal ‘Ginge’ Roberts for a short period of time, however that time was a privilege. Always smiling, he had an unfailing ability to crack a joke no matter what the circumstances, raising morale on the wettest, coldest exercise. Corporal Roberts somehow combined this with a natural authority that meant he commanded the respect of all around him, the epitome of a Pioneer.

In a very short space of time I came to view him as an incredibly important part of a close knit team, one I regularly relied upon and who always delivered. The Regiment has lost one of its finest junior commanders as well as a true friend. My thoughts are with his family at this tragic time, their loss cannot be described. Gone but never forgotten.

Lieutenant Lee Rickards, Troop Commander, Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Corporal Roberts was a father who was very proud of his three children. He also spoke of his feelings for his girlfriend Paula and her son. Corporal Roberts will be sorely missed by anyone who was lucky enough to have met him. My thoughts go out to Paula, his children and parents.

Lieutenant Damien Turner, Advanced Search Advisor, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal ‘Ginge’ Roberts was a character who defined The Pioneer. He possessed almost every trait you could ask for in a Section Commander. He was professionally effective beyond any competition, he had a witty charisma that lads simply loved to follow and most importantly he had a true empathy with his soldiers.

This was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, who was honest, caring and altogether approachable. These words cannot do a man of his magnitude justice but I hope they come close. My thoughts are with your children, in whom you live on. Rest easy Pioneer.

Warrant Officer Class One Wayne Fuller, Regimental Sergeant Major, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal ‘Ginge’ Roberts was one of our very best Pioneer junior Commanders. Fit, keen and motivated, he led from the front wherever possible. An utterly selfless individual, his first concern was always for the men serving with and under him. Cpl Roberts showed his intrinsic ability as a soldier when passing his Search Course, and as the Commander of an Advanced Search Team, operating in the most austere of environments, he prepared his team impeccably for all tasks set. Reliable to the core, he was a true leader, and the epitome of what it is to be a Pioneer Soldier.

Corporal Roberts was always at the centre of Regimental activity, an outstanding sportsman and PTI, he represented the Regiment in the Boxing Ring and at football with real style and a steely determination. He was a soldier who had the capacity to go all the way in any chosen field and his loss will be felt keenly by all members of our close knit Regiment and the wider Pioneer and RLC community. The Regiment is a darker place without him. My thoughts are with his friends, family and girlfriend at this most difficult of times.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kevin Prevett, Squadron Sergeant Major, Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Corporal Andrew Roberts or as we all new him ‘Ginge’ will leave a deep void amongst his team and those he touched with his superb sense of humour. He led his team with pride, swagger and vigour. Ever the professional he was admired by his young team and the wider Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search community within the Task Force.

I will always remember his willingness to volunteer for any job that would improve the welfare of the soldiers who served under him. He leaves behind three beautiful children Jessica, Kyle and Kayla that I feel I know through many a late night chat about life. His character was fun, passionate, filled with laughter, professionalism and compassion; qualities that made him the excellent leader he was. We will never forget him.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kwan Cheung, Squadron Sergeant Major, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal Roberts was one of the best Section Commanders that I have had the honour to serve with. He struck the right balance; diligent and forward thinking he was always able to step up and to ensure things were moving in the right direction. He was passionate about his men, always looking out for them and seeking to ensure that they were prepared and always fit for task. He had unbelievable amounts of morale which was infectious - he always tried to makes things better for everybody.

Corporal Roberts was a fine sportsman, representing both the Squadron and the Regiment in the boxing ring year in and year out, and always doing so with real style, grit and panache. He was at the very centre of Sqn activity; he was incredibly fit, strong and driven and he will be missed terribly. Cpl Roberts it is an honour to have known and to have served with you, never to be forgotten.

Corporal Andrew ‘Stevo’ Stevenson, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

I have had the pleasure of knowing Corporal Roberts for a long time. We both worked as Physical Training Instructors together. He was a very fit lad who represented the Regiment at boxing and cross-country. It always surprised me how little effort he seemed to have to put in to do so well.

A very well liked and outgoing bloke, who was never worried about telling people how it is and a devoted father to his three kids that he could never seem to spend enough time with.

He was always happy to help out anyone, or take the mick out of anyone, but he was also always happy to help out a friend when they needed it. So many people are going to miss him, as he brought so much laughter wherever he went.

Lance Corporal Andrew ‘Wildy’ Wild, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Corporal Andrew Roberts was a strong, down to earth soldier. It seemed like he was everywhere, all the time and always adding laughter and fun wherever he went. He had a great, keen attitude to life. He loved his fitness, but still approached the world in a light-hearted way. He was relaxed, chilled, but knew when to be serious at the same time. I never heard him speak ill of anyone, and deep down I knew he was a soft and fluffy bloke!

Ginge, red and green went through your veins. Rest in Peace, Pioneer.

Private Cayah ‘Robbo’ Ware-Roberts, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

I first met ‘Ginge’ in 2008 when I got to the Regiment and deployed with him on Op HERRICK 10. He was the sort of bloke that if you needed something and he could help, then he couldn’t do it readily enough. He loved sport, he was involved in Regimental football and boxing, despite getting routinely beaten around the head in boxing. He always seemed to be the first to volunteer, and I’ll remember him most for the way he could make me smile after taking my chips at Poker.

A true friend and Pioneer all the way to his core.

Corporal Carling, Search Troop, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

I’d known Corporal ‘Ginge’ ‘Robbo’ Roberts for a long time. He was one of the very best. An outstanding physical training instructor, boxer and footballer, he was respected and loved by us all. A family man, Robbo doted on his kids endlessly, immensely proud of them. My thoughts are with them and his family. Rest easy Robbo, see you in ‘Ye Olde Pioneer’.

Lance Corporal Payne, Search Troop, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

‘Ginge’ was one of the nicest, most down to earth blokes I ever had the pleasure of serving with. Always laughing and joking, he’d defend his beloved Middlesborough Football Club fiercely. My fondest memories of him always involve the quick witted comments he’d throw out at the guys when they were ripping him for supporting Middlesborough. ‘Ginge’, you will be sorely missed mate. We’ll have one for you and our deepest sympathies are with his family at this incredibly difficult time.

Lance Corporal Whitear, Search Troop, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

‘Ginge’ Roberts always lived life to the full, always happy no matter where we were, if morale was low, he would pick it up. Some of my fondest memories as a Pioneer are with ‘Ginge’; he was immensely proud to wear the Red and Green of a Pioneer. ‘Ginge’ had time for everyone, especially his kids and family. We have all lost a brother but they have lost even more. My most heartfelt sympathies are with them. We’ll have one in ‘Ye Olde Pioneer’ mate.

Private Ratu Silibaravi (All rights reserved.)
Private Ratu Silibaravi (All rights reserved.)

Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi

Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi deployed to Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 16 on 11 March 2012 as a member of an Advanced Search Team in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force. As an Advanced Searcher, Private Silibaravi and his team were responsible for the detection of Improvised Explosive Devices in areas deemed to be high risk.

On 18 April 2012 Private Silibaravi was deployed in support of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh to the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province. His team had conducted a number of search operations to clear irrigation ditches and enhance the security of operating bases, as well as deploying to provide direct Counter Improvised Explosive Device support to patrolling troops.

In doing this Private Silibaravi and his team not only ensured freedom of movement for International Security Assistance Forces and Afghan National Security Forces, but undoubtedly saved the lives of both Afghans and International personnel.

Private Silibaravi was 32 years old and was born in Fiji. He joined the British Army in 2002 and in 2003 he took up his post in 23 Pioneer Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps based in Bicester, Oxfordshire. During a relatively short, yet busy career in the Army, Private Silibaravi had served in Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009.

He has served in 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC and the Support Battalion, Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. He also completed public duties at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London in 2008. His enthusiasm and intelligence made him an ideal member of an Advanced Search Team

A consummate sportsman he was a member of the Regimental Rugby Team and was a promising candidate for the Royal Logistic Corps Rugby Team. He was a fine runner and represented the Regiment at athletics.

A popular Pioneer, Private Silibaravi leaves behind his brothers, Saimoni, Kaveri and Ratumeli, and sisters, Mereoni, Salote and extended family.

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Bell, Commanding Officer, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

The terrible loss of Private Silibaravi has come as a shock to all of us in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force and I know that it will affect his parent unit, 23 Pioneer Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps in a similar manner. At this most difficult of times my thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with his family and all of his friends.

A quiet, yet determined and popular soldier, Private Silibaravi was a professional and committed individual. Strong and fit, he had an excellent work ethic, throwing himself wholeheartedly at every challenge. The number of operational tours that he had successfully completed is testament to his dedication and professionalism.

Quite new to the specialist role of an Advanced Searcher, Private Silibaravi was nonetheless showing significant potential and promise for the future. He had easily taken on the skills required to add value to a team employed in the finding of deadly Improvised Explosive Devices in order that they can be safely disposed of. In the harsh and demanding conditions faced here in Afghanistan, his quiet confidence and clear inner strength had a positive, calming effect on those around him.

The Royal Logistic Corps, 23 Pioneer Regiment and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force have lost a professional, reliable and popular soldier today. He will be sadly missed by the members of the Task Force, but never forgotten. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.

Lieutenant Colonel Dom Fletcher, Commanding Officer, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Private Ratu Silibaravi was one of my most experienced soldiers. Steadfast, redoubtable and brave, this soldier was a Pioneer to his core. A man of strong belief and affable character, he was immensely popular in the Regiment and a highly valued member of his Search team.

He took immense pride in his successful selection and completion of the Advanced Search Course and his subsequent deployment with the Counter IED and Search Task Force on Op HERRICK 16. Trained to detect a wide range of insurgent Improvised Explosive Devices, he was attached to 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Battlegroup, serving as part of Combined Force Burma in the northern part of Nahr-e Saraj district.

Private Ratu Silibaravi was a obvious choice when volunteers were required to train for the high risk role of Advanced Search in Afghanistan. With his broad operational experience, and his superb soldiering skills, he quickly established himself as an invaluable member of his section. Intelligent and thoughtful by nature, he was highly professional and always gave 100% to any task he was given. He died amongst his friends, on operations in a role that is vital to achieving progress in Afghanistan and highly regarded by all deployed UK forces.

He joined the Army in 2002 and saw operational service in Iraq and Afghanistan; this was his third Op HERRICK tour of duty. He served with the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps as well as conducting public duties at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London in 2008. He was a soldier with good promotion prospects. This man contributed a huge amount to Regimental life in 23 Pioneer Regiment.

He was a strong individual who was an outstanding rugby player and a talented all round sportsman. Typical of his warm personality, he was also an excellent coach and mentor to his junior soldiers. His loss will be felt by all of us in our small Regimental family, but his memories will live on in all of us that had the pleasure of knowing him. He was the embodiment of a selfless and brave soldier; he was in every sense a true Pioneer.

He leaves behind his brother Saimoni and sister Mereoni. They are all in our thoughts and prayers at this most tragic time.

Major Ben Hawkins, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Private Silibaravi, or ‘Sili’ as he was more commonly known, was a quiet, composed and determined individual. As a Pioneer he was relatively new to the world of Advanced Search but he grasped it with true Pioneer Spirit and became a master of his trade. His exceptional Search skill meant he was an invaluable asset to his team; his incredible strength set him out amongst his peers. Well respected by his team and exceptionally level-headed Sili was truly a delight to be around. As a man of few words, he knew how to make his presence felt with his actions speaking louder than his words.

The loss of Private Silibaravi will be felt deeply by my Squadron here in Afghanistan, as well as within his Unit back in the UK. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Major Derren Battersby, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Private Silibaravi was killed in action whilst deployed in a dangerous and unforgiving role. He was very much a ‘soldier’s soldier’. A cliché perhaps, but he was a dedicated stalwart of the Squadron and of his community. He possessed considerable presence and physical strength yet he was also a mentor and made considerable efforts in bringing on the younger soldiers in the Squadron.

He devoted considerable time and effort to the Fijian community. He was instrumental in bringing together Fijian communities across the UK at the annual Fijian Community Church Service. This was an immense feat and one that he was fiercely proud of. A devoted Christian, he regularly attended Sunday Mass. He was also a keen and talented singer and was a member of the community choir. Private Silibaravi was highly respected by all he encountered in whatever endeavour.

To lose one of our own in such circumstances is a tragic loss. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family in Fiji and friends in the UK. He will be deeply missed by all of us.

Captain Andy Shannon, Squadron Second-in-Command, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Private Manasa ‘Silli’ Silibaravi was an immensely popular member of the Squadron, well known for his happy attitude and entertaining antics. Hugely professional, he would throw himself at any task, a true Pioneer in every respect. Passing the Search Course was a very proud moment for Private Silibaravi and he was fiercely loyal to his Team as well as the Regiment.

A keen sportsman and extremely fit, it was rare to see Private Silibaravi without a rugby ball in his hand or competing in some form of athletics. The Regiment has lost one of its brightest and best. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family. He will always be remembered.

Lieutenant Lee Rickards, Troop Commander, Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Private Silibaravi was a strong minded, professional soldier, loyal to those he served with. He had a passion for rugby and showed great skill representing the Regiment in the Army Premiership. Private Silibaravi will be missed by all who met him. I am particularly proud to have served with him. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Lieutenant Damien Turner, Advanced Search Advisor, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

I know only too well the hole Sili will leave in our ranks. A very modest soldier, his heart of gold was truly known to all. I never once saw him lose his patience and he almost always had a smile to share. Despite his gentle nature, Sili was one of the strongest soldiers I have had the pleasure to meet. Without a doubt, our Regiment is a lesser place without his reassuring presence. He represented the best of us, a Pioneer through and through.

Warrant Officer Class One Wayne Fuller, Regimental Sergeant Major, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Pte ‘Prince’ Silibaravi was a vibrant and popular member of the Regiment. A proud Fijian he was fit and brave and threw himself into all aspects of his deployment. He was a valued Advanced Search Team member; a pleasure for our NCOs to command and with his experienced manner and ability to mentor junior Soldiers, he himself was on the cusp of promotion.

Back in barracks he was a talented sportsman, representing the Regiment at both athletics and rugby. A committed Christian, Pte Silibaravi was a real character within our local Fijian, and wider, Bicester community. He possessed a strength of character that spread to all around him, coupled with his boundless energy. He was a stalwart of our Regiment, one of our very best Soldiers and a true pioneer.

To lose one of our most talented Soldiers on operations is a tragic loss, he will be sorely missed and our small family Regiment and the wider Corps will grieve for him immensely. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kevin Prevett, Squadron Sergeant Major, Operations Squadron, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, said:

Private Ratu Silibaravi or ‘Sili’ to the team was the ‘Gentle Giant’ who could be relied upon in any situation. Coupled with his commanding presence was a shadow of kindness and gentleness. Sili was a quiet soldier who continually showed a loud infectious smile to those around him. My memorable moment with Sili was when I asked him to aid in building a metal water storage container, he was using the palm of his hand to thump in metal rods. When I showed him the hammer to use, he simply said in his usual relaxed manner, ‘Weak’. I and the rest of us that are left behind will never forget him.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kwan Cheung, Squadron Sergeant Major, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Pte Silibaravi was a hugely popular and dedicated member of the Regiment. He joined the Army in 2002 and brought with him all the very best that you would expect from a fine Fijian Warrior.

Pte Silibaravi is the kind of soldier that NCOs and Officers love to command; hardworking, extremely fit and intelligent, he is one of the very best. Aside from being a pleasure to command he inspires the younger soldiers, always giving them the very best advice and delivering the type of leadership that only a senior Private can.

Pte Silibaravi was a keen sportsman, an ever-present member of the Regimental Rugby team and with that was always keen to try his hand at any physical challenge. Pte Silibaravi had strong belief which gave him strength, something that he was always prepared to share.

Pte Silibaravi it is an honour to have known you for your entire career. You will never be forgotten.

Lance Corporal Andrew ‘Wildy’ Wild, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Sili was a strong minded, hard faced and well respected member of the Pioneer family. He kept himself to himself, but when needed you knew he was present! He loved rugby and smashed up the opposition and the pitch in equal measure. He will sorely be missed.

Private Cayah ‘Robbo’ Ware-Roberts, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Sili was an immensely strong character, everyone liked him, it’s as simple as that! He was always making fun for himself, either in the Squadron lines playing games, or as I remember, being unhealthily obsessed with conkers! He was a big softie, with a reassuringly calm nature. I consider it an absolute privilege and honour to have served next to him. Strong as an ox, always smiling and a true friend, that’s how I’ll remember you Sili.

Lance Corporal Cabemaikadavu, 9 Troop, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Pte Silibaravi was a character who everyone knew. He lived his life to the very limit. Immensely compassionate, he was always loyal to those around him. He was a keen sportsman who was extremely fit. He will be greatly missed when running the rugby field without him. His happy character, good laughs and funny stories will be sadly missed by the whole community.

A Fijian born warrior, one of the finest and the best, who died as a true Pioneer. We’ll miss you brother and we will always remember you.

Lance Corporal Kuruvakadua, Operations Support Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

‘Isa Sili’… we could have a lifetime wish and one dream that could come true. We could pray to God with all our hearts just to see and speak to you again, but a thousand words won’t bring you back. We know because we’ve tried and cried with a million tears. You’ve left behind broken hearts and precious memories throughout our military life. But we never wanted memories, we only wanted you.

Thank you for everything that we’ve shared, being a dedicated, awesome and wonderful brother. Your kind smile, your God gifted voice, your never ending jokes and not forgetting your ‘vakalutu vosa’ style will be sorely missed. Isa RIP ‘Taciqu’!

Condolences and all our love are with your family. Your memories will forever be cherished by your brothers in arms here at 23 Pioneer Regiment and most of all, your Bicester Fijian Community.

Private Qalo, 10 Troop, Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

Pte Silibaravi was well known amongst his friends for a caring and good hearted nature. I first met him during my Phase One Training in Pirbright, whilst he was accommodated there for a charity event he had helped to organise. I went to Afghanistan with him in 2006. He’s the type that is always up to any challenge, who will give his all for anyone. A comedian and an entertainer, everyone knew him in the community. You will be deeply missed in our hearts and homes but never forgotten. I’ll remember the happy times we shared and we’ll look forward to when we meet again. The Pioneer Family never forgets.

Pte Ranatora, Operations Support Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC, said:

One day I asked myself ‘What would the best person look like?’ A few months later as I arrived into St David’s Barracks, Bicester, I remembered that I came across the person that answered that question.

I have known Pte Silibaravi for 7 years. I admire his dedication to any endeavour. ‘Sili’ was a very kind hearted and generous person. His life revolves around the people who need his help. He loves to help out a lot. A young junior soldier who does not fully understand how things work would always find ‘Sili’ guiding him. A lasting memory of ‘Sili’ is of us in Kenya last year, where he gave up his own rations to give to the children who always visited the camp for food and water. At all times I have found ‘Sili’ to be a very good leader and very responsible for his age. Whether in the block, on exercise, or on operations, ‘Sili’ led from the front, often doing the physical tasks himself that he could have left to others.

Heavily involved in the Fijian community, everyone knew him and his Fijian brothers and family recognised the selfless commitment he made to us in Ambrosden and at the Church. He was a charming person; his sense of humour and light hearted nature will be remembered by all. His love of a joke and being the centre of entertainment at rugby or having a bowl of grog at the weekend will never leave us. I feel these attributes demonstrate someone with exceptional character who is born with that. It will not easily be forgotten by people who knew him.

Naked came I out of my mothers womb and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of God. May your soul rest in peace. ‘Moce mada mataquile Sili’.

Published 5 May 2012