Operations in Afghanistan

Corporal Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer killed in Afghanistan

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Corporal Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer, from 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 RIFLES), were killed in Afghanistan on 15 January 2010.

Ministry of Defence crest
Corporal Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer (All rights reserved.)

Corporal Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer (All rights reserved.)

The soldiers were killed as a result of an improvised explosive device blast while on patrol near Sangin in Helmand province.

Corporal Lee Brownson

Corporal Lee Brownson was born in Bishop Auckland on 15 September 1979. He went to King James the First Comprehensive School prior to enlisting in the Army on 30 August 1996.

He attended Phase One training at the Army Training Regiment in Winchester before attending the Infantry Training Centre Catterick in November 1996. He completed training and was posted to 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry, based at the time in Palace Barracks, Northern Ireland.

Corporal Lee Brownson (All rights reserved.)

Corporal Lee Brownson (All rights reserved.)

During his time in the Army Corporal Brownson served in Sierra Leone, Cyprus, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He completed the Platoon Serjeants’ Battle Course in Brecon in March 2009, gaining the highest possible grade. Corporal Brownson assumed the role of Section Commander with 2 Platoon, A Company, 3 RIFLES, and it was in this role that he deployed on Op HERRICK 11.

He leaves behind his wife Leeanne, two daughters, Ginalee and Morgan, and his unborn child.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson, Commanding Officer 3 RIFLES Battle Group, said:

Corporal Lee Brownson was the very best of Riflemen, brimming with energy, cheer, modesty and resourcefulness. Such was his self-confidence and inner strength that nothing was too much trouble for him in understanding and caring for the needs of those around him. Whether for his beloved wife and daughters at home or for his brothers-in-arms here in Afghanistan, his first priority was to take care of others.

His loss leaves a gaping hole but we shall close ranks and continue the fight, a fight at the forefront of which he was always to be found. We honour his brave sacrifice, saluting his commitment and example.

He played a massive part in our work out here, proving himself in combat on countless occasions and giving untold strength to his men through tough times. With spirit and compassion in equally copious measure, he was a beacon of inspiration to us all.

He was a leader in every sense; commanding the respect not only of those who worked for him, but also of those for whom he worked. Representing the bright future of the Army and his loss is a heavy burden to bear.

There will be no shortage of Riflemen willing to share stories of his life with his children in the years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We know that they will draw strength, as do we, from the finest of examples he set in life.

Major Tim Harris, Officer Commanding A Company, said:

Corporal Brownson was truly phenomenal. He was loved by his men; they all wanted to be just like him, their hero. He was kind and caring, taking new arrivals under his wing and giving them courage during the darkest of hours.

He was outstandingly brave; if there was a fight to be had he was always at the front. On one occasion, like the all-action hero he was, he was hit by a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder, but refused medical treatment, dealing with it in the morning once the enemy had gone.

What I loved most about ‘Browny’ was the mischievous twinkle in his eyes; I always suspected he was up to something but like all the best loveable rogues I could never quite pin anything on him. He was a consummate professional, as proved by his award of a distinction on the elite Platoon Serjeants’ Battle Course; he was ready for promotion and I am convinced that he could have done the Platoon Serjeant job standing on his head.

I spoke to him about his career the day before he died and I am so grateful that I got the chance. We discussed his hopes, fears and ambitions. I got the chance to thank him for his exemplary bravery during a previous attack at Patrol Base Almas, and for his fortitude which helped see his platoon through the hardest of times.

The battalion has lost a fine soldier, a compassionate human being, a cheeky chap and a dear friend. But our pain can be nothing when compared to the loss felt by his beloved Leeanne, Ginalee and Morgan. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and his wider family at this time.

Corporal Brownson’s legacy is the clutch of young Riflemen who continue to endeavour to complete the task set before us; they have learned from the best and they - we - will not let you down. ‘Stand easy’ Browny.

Lieutenant Palmer Winstanley, Officer Commanding 2 Platoon, said:

Words cannot begin to tell you what kind of a man Corporal Lee Brownson was. One of the most inspiring men I have had the honour of serving with. He was relaxed but efficient, friendly but ruthless when needed, but his best asset was his ability to inspire all those around him to do better. His men looked up to him for leadership, friendship and inspiration.

He loved his job. He would sit for hours coming up with ‘out of the box’ plans to catch the insurgents out. He applied 100 per cent of his energy to serving his men. I will never forget his bravery when a sentry position collapsed during a battle with the insurgents.

The two lads in the sentry position were buried outside the compound, so without thinking twice for his own safety, Browny leapt out of the base without his helmet and body armour under heavy enemy fire (from only 100m away) to recover the two men to safety. He was a truly brave and compassionate man.

While he loved his job, this only accounted for 1 per cent of his life. Another 1 per cent was spent dreaming up yet more fantastic money-making schemes. The majority of his life, however, was spent talking about his childhood sweetheart and wife, Leeanne, his two beautiful daughters, Ginalee and Morgan, and his unborn baby due this summer. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this terrible time.

Browny, you were an incredible commander and friend; you were and always will be one of a kind, with enough character to carry the whole platoon. You will be truly missed, a gap that can never be filled, but you leave memories that will always remain.

Colour Serjeant ‘Suggs’ Sugrue, Acting Company Serjeant Major, A Company, said:

I first met Browny just short of two years ago in Kosovo when I first came to this battalion, and I enjoyed many hours of banter with him about which was the better regiment - The Green Jackets or The Light Infantry. The more I got to know him, the more it became apparent that he was a true Rifleman in every sense of the word, he was keen and loved what he did for a living, this showed in the way he performed his duties.

His selfless commitment to his lads and his platoon was awe-inspiring, the word ‘no’ was not part of his vocabulary, and he was always willing to lend a hand to anyone who asked, and I did many times. He was a truly respected and loved member of the company who epitomised all that you could wish to achieve as Rifleman.

He leaves a big gap in A Company, which will be hard to fill. Browny’s love for his job was only second to that of the love for his family, and my thoughts go out to them at this sad time. A true hero.

Corporal Thomas Cook, Mortar Fire Controller, said:

I first met Browny when we were deployed to Cyprus. In an instant I recognised he was a soldier of the highest quality. He was a man with a razor-sharp wit and an endless list of people who regarded him as a really good friend.

He always took on any task and always needed to be involved. As a commander, he passed these qualities on to his men, who he moulded into a group you knew you could rely on. Our thoughts are with his family and friends; he will be sadly missed by everyone whose lives he touched.

Corporal Frankie Mason, Section Commander, 1 Platoon, A Company, said:

I have known Browny for over ten years and can’t even begin to describe the numbness felt due to his loss. He was a man who was outstanding in everything he set out to do, be it his job or otherwise. The part of him I will miss most was his sense of humour, which was always mischievous and, among the blokes, was infectious. I’m sure the gaping hole left by his loss will be filled with the happy memories of all who knew him.

The battalion has lost one of its most promising stars, and I and others have lost a great friend; my thoughts are now with his family. Safe journey and God bless mate, Frankie.

Corporal Kevin Ball, Section Commander, 3 Platoon, A Company, said:

Corporal Lee Brownson, Browny to mates or known to myself as Lee, was a friend, a true friend. My best friend, a brother I would look up to. As a soldier he was who I wanted to be. I looked to take inspiration from his work; in my opinion he was the best soldier and the best Section Commander this battalion had to offer and he was the man everyone wanted to be. When he led a patrol the rest of his section felt safe knowing the best of the best was at the very front, leading by example.

Browny joined the Army to do what he knew best; to soldier, to serve his country, and to serve his comrades well. A Company has been dealt a massive blow due to the loss of Corporal Brownson, a gap that can never be filled. Browny has gone but will never be forgotten.

You’ll always be in my thoughts, my prayers, my heart; the 15th of January will never leave me. My thoughts are with his wife Leeanne and his daughters Ginalee and Morgan and his unborn child. Goodbye mate, love you, and thinking of you always.

Corporal Emma Henderson, Combat Medic, said:

I am not quite sure what to write, as I feel that none of this is real. I still keep expecting you to burst through the ops room door asking ‘What’s happening?’ with that grin on your face like you were up to something, or had already done something! Or you were coming to see me with one of your ‘minor injuries’! I will always remember the cooking sessions you, Cass and I had going.

My thoughts go out to your wife Leeanne who you always spoke so fondly of, and also your two daughters Ginalee and Morgan. You were so full of life Browny, you will be deeply missed by everyone. RIP. (P.S. I am sure it was your turn for the brews!).

Lance Corporal Johnny Cassell, 2 Platoon, said:

I first met Lee in 2004 when I joined Sniper Platoon 2LI [2nd Battalion The Light Infantry]. We instantly became solid friends as we shared similar interests and lived near each other in Co Durham. He was known as a bit of a ‘Del Boy’ in battalion and never failed to make me laugh with stories of his latest money-making schemes.

We used to spend many a night at the car auctions where we would dream about being able to afford a posh ‘Beemer’ or Merc. He was an awesome soldier, relaxed but professional at the same time, he never flapped and always knew exactly what he was doing. He attacked jobs that needed doing with the strength of ten men and in so doing inspired both those under and above his command to do the same.

As well as being an awesome soldier, Lee was also a fiercely devoted family man, and my thoughts are with his wife Leeanne, his two girls Ginalee and Morgan, and his unborn child due this summer.

All-in-all no words I’ve written here can ever sum up what an incredible man Lee Brownson was; I feel privileged to have known him for the time that I did. I’m totally gutted that he’s gone, and I think that everyone will agree with me that men like Lee don’t come round too often. He’s irreplaceable. I miss you mate, and I’ll never forget you.

Rifleman Jerome Cupid, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

To write this eulogy is hard for me. Corporal Brownson, ‘Browny’, was a motivator and successful at what he did. He always made us work hard in all that we did, because he knew what the Army was about; he also wanted us all to be a success in this regiment. If you ask anyone about ‘Browny’ they will tell you he is one of a kind. Corporal Brownson will always be in our hearts. We will always remember him.

Rifleman Sam Glasby, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

In memory of Corporal Lee Brownson: words can’t even describe how tragic Corporal Brownson’s death is; he was my Section Commander and a well-known face to everyone. He always led by example and wanted us to be as good as him one day.

When I was on patrol with him I always felt safe, he just used to say ‘Take your time mate, no rush’. My heart goes out to his wife and kids, we will do as much as we can to help. Rest in peace mate, you will always be in our hearts and always on our minds.

Rifleman Lamin Sanneh, 2 Platoon, A Comany, said:

Gone but not forgotten. Browny was a good and kind man who everyone looked at like a father figure. He was funny, caring and always looked after the lads, making sure we were ready for anything out in the field.

He motivated us and gave us all courage. Every time I looked at him I smiled, and I used to say to him ‘Browny I really love you’, to which he would always reply ‘I love you too Sanneh and I will look after you all the way to the end of the tour’.

Rifleman Eddie Foster, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

Corporal Brownson, known to his friends as Browny, was my Section Commander. He wouldn’t tell anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, and he led by example. He always had a smile on his face, and I always looked to him if I needed help. I remember when we were confirming an IED that I had found and all this smoke started coming out of the ground, so Browny shouted ‘Run!’ and we all scurried away, before bursting into uncontrollable laughter.

That’s the kind of man he was, a bubbly person who always saw the bright side during the worst of tasks. This is why I respected him, not just as my commander but also as a friend. He will be bitterly missed and my thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace mate, we’ll all remember you.

Rifleman Tom Robson, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

Browny, where do I start? I first met him when he came to A Company before Kosovo in 2008. He was an awesome soldier and an even better commander. He would always look out for his section and put us before himself.

It is a terrible loss to us as a platoon but we know that he will always play a part in our lives as he made us the way we are now. It’s devastating but even more so for the family he left behind. Our thoughts go to Leeanne, Ginalee and Morgan.

Rifleman Luke Farmer

Rifleman Farmer was born in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, on 27 July 1990. He went to Minsthorpe Community College before joining the Army in 2008. He attended training at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick from October 2008 to April 2009 before joining A Company, 3 RIFLES, in their pre-deployment training for Op HERRICK 11.

Rifleman Luke Farmer (All rights reserved.)

Rifleman Luke Farmer (All rights reserved.)

Mark, Rifleman Farmer’s father said:

I was the proudest dad at his passing out parade. I felt 20 feet tall the day Luke received the award for the fittest soldier within his intake. He could have one day gone to the Olympics as a 100-metre sprinter, he was that fast.

Angela, Rifleman Farmer’s mother said:

Luke was a young man who didn’t cause us any problems. He was well-loved by us and his extended family and friends. He was a good rugby league player who played for Upton Amateur Rugby Football Club. His favourite rugby league team were the Castleford Tigers. He will be missed by all including the friends and his cousin who he joined up with.

Scott, Rifleman Farmer’s eldest brother said:

He was simply the bestest brother.

Derek, Rifleman Farmer’s paternal grandfather said:

Luke was a brilliant grandson. We’ll always remember the times we took him and his brothers on holiday.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson, Commanding Officer 3 RIFLES Battle Group, said:

Rifleman Luke Farmer was everything I could ask a Rifleman to be; fit, robust, capable, determined and loyal. His dedication served as an inspiration to his fellow Riflemen and his selfless commitment was an example to all.

Rifleman Farmer is a shining example of the young men who are serving in this place for the benefit of all. His sacrifice is as humbling as his commitment is inspiring and we shall take strength from his memory.

Our pain is no less for him being quite new to our band of brothers; indeed the loss of such blinding potential, and one so young, is a bitter pill to swallow. We lost a top quality young Rifleman, so much so that he had most definitely made his mark during the very full months he had been with us.

The thoughts and prayers of this whole Battle Group go out to his family at this tragic time. We know that they too will find comfort in all that he had achieved and the great promise which he showed.

Major Tim Harris, Officer Commanding A Company, said:

Rifleman Luke Farmer was a typical Yorkshireman; tough as granite, quietly self-assured and as brave as ten men. He was a man who ‘spoke softly but carried a big stick’. There was no front, no bluff, just honest endeavour and extraordinary maturity for one so young.

Physically fit and dedicated he was a formidable foe in the unofficial wrestling arena and he carried this strength and courage into his work.

It was no surprise to me that when he died he had just been fighting the enemy, and that he was the front man, clearing the route in the dark with a metal detector for his mates so that they would be safe. He saw this as his sacred duty - and he was damned good at it.

Time and again during this tour, he found devices which were subsequently made safe, saving countless lives and limbs. He was proud of his achievements, and I hope his family can take comfort from the fact that Luke died doing an important job, and one that he cared passionately about.

He may have appeared to outsiders to be reserved, quiet and possibly shy. This was not the case at all. He was simply weighing you up. Once you had earned his trust you would see what a warm, engaging, funny and loyal man he was. He was utterly selfless in defending those he considered to be his mates - and there were many of those.

A Company will miss him dearly, but we are now doubly determined to continue the work he begun, helping to bring security to the area and deny the insurgents the space to intimidate the local people. At this time, my thoughts and prayers are with his dear family, who I know were so proud of his many achievements. They are right to be proud; he was one of a kind.

Lieutenant Palmer Winstanley, Officer Commanding 2 Platoon, said:

Rifleman Luke Farmer was not your average Rifleman. He had a real depth of character. He was confident, strong, and kind. He was a quiet man with a quick wit.

For such a young man (only 19½ years old) he was mature beyond his years. He stepped up to the mark as our lead man, responsible for finding improvised explosive devices with a metal detector. This is an incredible undertaking for anyone, and it is certain that he saved many lives (British and Afghan) through his sheer resilience and bravery.

He loved his job right from the start. He made an impact on everyone in the chain of command. He never ‘jacked’ on his fellow soldiers, and was always the first to volunteer for tasks. He was an exceptional Rifleman who showed considerable potential for promotion within the Army even at this early stage. He was a brilliant young man with a bright future ahead of him.

His loss is felt sorely by the whole platoon, but his death will not go in vain. Only minutes before he died he was suppressing the enemy, refusing to budge an inch. His death has left a large hole in the platoon that cannot be filled.

Young, strong, brave and utterly loyal to his mates. Luke Farmer you will never be forgotten.

Corporal Ben Hall, Section Commander, 2 Platoon, said:

‘Farms’ was the ‘Directing Staff’ answer to a Rifleman - in other words he was exactly what every Section Commander would hope for. Fit, robust, bright, tough, always happy, and a legend on the lash. He was a real character in the platoon. It was an honour to have worked with him. You’ll be sorely missed mate, Ben.

Lance Corporal Kai Phillips, Royal Artillery, Fire Support Team, said:

Farmer was a hardworking, strong and gifted soldier who was utterly professional but was also a bit of a prankster as I found out to my cost on more than one occasion. He loved his rugby and was mad keen on fitness; most of all he was a good friend to me - I will miss him so.

Rifleman Danny Coop, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

Rifleman Farmer was one of my best mates in the whole world. He always put other people before himself. He will be missed loads by the platoon; none of us will ever forget him. I always remember he used to make us all laugh by doing his famous ‘Rocky’ impression. Missing you Farmer, you will be a big loss in the platoon xx.

Rifleman Sam Glasby, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

In memory of Rifleman Luke Farmer. Farmer was a great lad and an awesome friend. He lived fairly close to me and we had loads in common; sports, chasing girls and nights out on the lash - what a legend. He always used to talk about home and what he was going to do when he got back.

Farmer was known as the ‘Iron man Yorkshireman’ because no-one could beat him at wrestling. It was so funny watching him wrestling and boxing with all the lads; he was pure morale and we all miss him so badly. I hope and pray that everyone will stay strong after this tragic loss of a brilliant young man, Luke Farmer. Rest in peace mate; love you to bits and will miss you loads.

Rifleman Jerome Cupid, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

Luke Farmer was a friend to me, someone I could talk to if I felt a bit downhearted. To class him as a friend is not enough, he was rather like a brother to me. To start with he was a really funny guy, and was always boasting about his wrestling skills. He always spoke fondly of his mum and dad, and how he couldn’t wait to get back home to see them. It is with tears in my eyes that I write this as I realise I will not see him again in this life, but I will always remember Luke Farmer.

Rifleman Daniel Cooper, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

On meeting Farmer during our pre-deployment training I realised I had met a really easy-going man with a good nature. He had broad shoulders and was able to take any pressure to do any job. Given time he would have been the Almas UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] champion - Luke was a strong man with a kind heart.

Rifleman Tom Robson, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

When Farmer first joined us he moved straight into my room. He was a quality mate, funny, always up for a laugh, and would never jack on the lads. He settled into the platoon straight away and quickly proved himself as an awesome Rifleman.

Strong, fit and switched on, his loss is a tragedy but we know that he died doing a job which he loved and he was proud of what he did and what he had achieved in his short, bright career. My thoughts go out to his family and friends - we will never forget him. RIP mate.

Rifleman Eddie Foster, 2 Platoon, A Company, said:

Me and Farmer used to have a right old laugh. He was from Yorkshire, I am from the South, so we used to have a bit of friendly banter, and used to do North v South competitions. I remember we had a one-on-one basketball match in FOB [Forward Operating Base] Nolay, neither of us were any good but I smashed him 5-4!

He used to call me a ‘southern fairy’! He was a real grafter and you could tell that he just loved being a soldier. Everyone in the platoon got on with him and we all enjoyed watching him make Kai ‘tap out’ in a wrestling match. He enjoyed drawing and he was very good at it too. You will be missed mate but not forgotten. My sympathy goes to your parents who we all knew you loved. Rest in peace Farmer, I’ll never forget you.

Rifleman Jonnie Rowlands, 3 RIFLES Battle Group, said:

Luke was my best friend and I never had anybody I could get on with so well; people used to laugh in training because they used to call him Farmers, the NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] used to insist it was Farmer, not Farmers. Whenever we went home I always used to ring him and ask him to come for a drink. He probably thought I was stalking him.

When we passed out of training we went on holiday to Spain together before we went to Scotland to join 3 RIFLES. We were in different companies - I bet he was glad to get rid of me but we still did most things together when we were in Scotland. He was a first class soldier, he loved it and he loved to be first all the time which was in most things. You will be missed mate.

Rifleman Kevin McDelling, 1 Platoon, A Company, said:

This has been a sad day for the company, having lost a good soldier and, more than that, a true friend. Rifleman Farmer was always smiling and eager to help out others wherever he could.

He used to be teased for his ‘pretty boy’ looks but he shoved that aside by proving he was not just a pretty boy but a pretty good soldier. The job he has done in Afghanistan will never be forgotten. My condolences to his family and friends. He leaves a big gap in all of our hearts. RIP Pretty Boy.

Rifleman Justin Carter, 3 Platoon, A Company, said:

I first met Luke Farmer when we were both in training in Catterick. We were in the same platoon and even the same section. At first he came across as reserved and quiet, but after going out on the lash (which he was good at!), and spending time with him, I realised he was a right laugh.

He was a bright, mature lad with plenty of ambition. He loved his fitness - he was even awarded the prize for best fitness in Catterick. Luke was a great soldier, an awesome Rifleman, and a brilliant friend who will truly be missed.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:

I was so very sorry to learn of the deaths of Corporal Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer. Hearing about these two brave men, I am filled with admiration for their courage and loyalty. It is clear that they were an inspiration to their friends and colleagues alike. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their loved ones.

Published 17 January 2010