Operations in Afghanistan

Corporal Liam Riley and Lance Corporal Graham Shaw killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Corporal Liam Riley and Lance Corporal Graham Shaw from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3 YORKS) were killed in Helmand province on Monday 1 February 2010.

The soldiers, who were serving as part of the Coldstream Guards Battle Group, were killed as a result of two improvised explosive device blasts near Malgir, which lies between Babaji and Gereshk.

Corporal Liam Riley and Lance Corporal Graham Shaw
Corporal Liam Riley and Lance Corporal Graham Shaw [Pictures: via MOD]

Corporal Liam Matthew Riley

Corporal Liam Matthew Riley was born in Sheffield on 7 July 1988. He finished Army training in July 2005 at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick and arrived in the battalion in September 2005. He completed the Section Commanders’ Battle Course in 2009 and promoted to Corporal later that year.

Corporal Riley was a member of a 3 YORKS platoon serving with the Coldstream Guards Battle Group in the Babaji district of central Helmand province. On 1 February 2010, he was the patrol second-in-command of a base security foot patrol south of the Kings Hill checkpoint when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated. Corporal Riley received catastrophic injuries from the explosion and was killed in action.

Corporal Liam Riley
Corporal Liam Riley [Picture: via MOD]

Corporal Riley’s family said:

Liam was a wonderful son who always wanted to join the Army from being very young. He loved Army-style stories as a little boy. When he was old enough to join, he took to Army life like a duck to water. He was very conscientious with his Army work and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. We were very proud of him and what he achieved both in life and in his Army career.

Liam liked sport and tried many different types - long enough to join or get the kit - but none lasted as long as football. This was his love, and when he was at home he played for both Beighton Magpies and the Throstles and was a keen Sheffield Wednesday supporter, even when he was away in Afghanistan. One of the things he asked when he rang home was how ‘Wednesday’ were doing.

He loved and respected his family and friends and was very close to his siblings Jonathan and Olivia. He was a bubbly, fun-loving lad and all his family and friends loved him - no-one will ever replace him.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Vallings, Commanding Officer 3 YORKS, said:

Corporal Liam Riley volunteered at short notice to serve in Afghanistan, such was his eagerness to do his duty. He was a strapping soldier from Sheffield and at only 21 years old had been identified as one of our stars of the future. He was an inspirational leader of men and was the youngest Corporal in the battalion.

“I have little doubt that he was heading to the top of his unique profession. He led by example, with boundless energy and an infectious smile that would spur his team on when life got tough.

“He was killed today by an IED in Helmand whilst heroically returning fire to extract one of his team. He personified all the very best qualities of a Yorkshire soldier; brave, tough, honest and proud.

Whilst we take great strength from Corporal Liam Riley’s distinctive courage and example, his loss has hit us hard in 3 YORKS. Our thoughts and prayers are not only with his fellow soldiers, who continue to rise to the challenges of Helmand, but also with his family and friends whose loss is immeasurable.

Lieutenant Colonel Toby Gray, Commanding Officer, Coldstream Guards Battle Group, said:

In the short period Corporal Riley served with the Coldstream Battle Group, there had been only the highest of praise for this exceptionally talented and promising JNCO [Junior Non-Commissioned Officer]. He had the brightest of futures ahead of him. A volunteer augmentee, he was operating in the most demanding of environments in the role of patrol second-in-command, a position he held with evident pride.

“With a natural charm and easy-going nature, he and his 3 YORKS comrades fitted into the Battle Group with ease, forming a potent and effective fighting team. Leading from the front, his diligence, professionalism and unfaltering courage have been an example to us all.

“Whilst we may not have shared the same cap badge, as fellow infantrymen we have an unbreakably close bond. We therefore share the same deep pain of loss right across the whole Battle Group. We offer our most heartfelt sympathies to his family at this desperately tragic time.”

Major Charlie Foinette, Officer Commanding 4 Company, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, said:

I was privileged to know Corporal Riley only for a short while, but from the moment he arrived at the beginning of January to join the Battle Group he stood out.

“He was enormously professional and quickly established himself amongst the company - we all knew him within a few days. He was one of us and will not be forgotten by the Coldstreamers here. My sympathies are with his family at this most painful of times.”

Major Nick McKenzie, Officer Commanding Corunna Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Corporal Riley was outstanding during our pre-deployment training prior to his deployment as a battle casualty replacement in late December last year. He was delighted to deploy with a 3 YORKS multiple that was attached to the Coldstream Guards.

Corporal Riley was one of the best soldiers I have ever met, who clearly had a bright future ahead of him. At only 21 years old he had recently passed the Section Commanders’ Battle Course and had just promoted to Corporal.

“As a thoroughly professional soldier he eagerly awaited an opportunity to deploy on operations and immediately grasped the chance when it arose. Since his deployment he has thrived on operations in Babaji, able to quickly understand the complexities of the local environs.

He was comfortable in command and showed excellent leadership when under pressure. Terrier-like in his approach to his work, he was professional through and through and always led by example. He was a very popular member of the company, who was never far from the centre of platoon repartee; a young leader who achieved much in a short space of time.

His passing is a desperately sad loss for those in the company that had the pleasure of training and deploying with him, but only a fraction of the loss that will be felt by his family and friends. I only hope that they can take some comfort from the fact that he died doing something that he loved. He will live forever in our memories.

Captain Chris Ibbotson, Company Second-in-Command, 3 YORKS, said:

Corporal Riley was the epitome of the British soldier. Extremely capable and bright, his professionalism shone through in everything he did. Corporal Riley was an extremely eager volunteer to deploy to Afghanistan and fully believed in his purpose here.

“The most likeable of characters, Corporal Riley used a blend of his professionalism and personality to accomplish his job to the highest level. He will be missed by his family, friends and colleagues alike.”

Captain Simon Farley, Platoon Commander, 3 YORKS, said:

Liam was a pleasure to know and a privilege to work with. He was a young man who showed a quick wit and cheeky approach in times of extreme discomfort.

“Hugely courageous, he led by example. He was a fine soldier who took great pride in what he did, and he did everything to the highest standard. A central member of any group, he led for others to follow.

“I count myself as very lucky to not only have known him but to have worked with him as well. I will miss him. My thoughts are with his family at this difficult and sensitive time.”

Sergeant Adrian Dixon, Platoon Sergeant, 3 YORKS, said:

You were all I wanted from a second-in-command - your attention to detail, positive attitude, professionalism and upbeat outlook made my job so much easier. You gave so much only to be taken in this most tragic way. All of us from the multiple are going to miss you, and our thoughts are with your family.

Private Luke Wilkinson, 3 YORKS, said:

This has been one of the most difficult days in my life. We will feel the loss of such a quality soldier for many years to come and he will never be far from our minds. I will have to get someone else to teach me how play the best poker! We’re going to miss you!

Lance Corporal Graham Nathan Shaw

Lance Corporal Graham Nathan Shaw was born in Huddersfield on 31 January 1983. He completed Army training in September 2000 at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, and arrived in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (3 YORKS) in November of the same year. He successfully undertook a JNCO cadre in 2002, promoting to Lance Corporal in the spring of 2004.

Lance Corporal Shaw was a member of a 3 YORKS platoon serving wih the Coldstream Guards Battle Group in the Babaji district of central Helmand province. On 1 February 2010, he was a team leader of a base security foot patrol south of the Kings Hill checkpoint when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing him instantly.

Lance Corporal Graham Shaw
Lance Corporal Graham Shaw [Picture: via MOD]

Lance Corporal Shaw’s family said:

Russ and Karen Shaw, and all the members of Graham’s family, are deeply saddened by the loss of a beloved member of the family who has been taken away from us in the prime of life.

Graham enjoyed life to the full, running everywhere. He ran to visit relatives in Calderdale and often ran on the moors near his home. He was very active and took part in many different sports from sky diving last summer to skiing with the Army in Canada and even surfing on the south coast - he was up for anything.

Graham was a soldier from 16 when he attended the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. He was proud to be a member of the British Army like his father before him. He knew the danger that he was to face whilst serving in Afghanistan. He lost his life doing the job he liked and enjoyed.

“We are all very proud of our hero. We ask that the family be left to grieve in peace.”

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Vallings, Commanding Officer 3 YORKS, said:

Typically, Lance Corporal Graham Shaw was at the front of the patrol when he was tragically killed by an IED in Helmand.

“He was 27 years old, totally selfless, an excellent soldier and the best of fun. He had that knack of being able to balance both work and play to ensure he got the very best out of all that he tackled. He was from Huddersfield and he had that Yorkshire fighting spirit in abundance. You would want him on your team whatever the task.

“Lance Corporal Graham Shaw was at his best on operations where he thrived under the added pressure and difficult conditions. He would brighten your day with his sense of humour and determination to get the job done.

“Lance Corporal Graham Shaw’s loss is felt by us all in this close-knit battalion, but none more so than by his family and friends and our thoughts and prayers are with them. A great soldier and a great bloke who served his country and his friends, making Afghanistan a better place.”

Lieutenant Colonel Toby Gray, Commanding Officer, Coldstream Guards Battle Group, said:

For the Coldstreamers, we have been privileged to have had such a fine soldier as Lance Corporal Shaw serving amongst us. He was a perfect example of the level of soldiering excellence resonating from all the attached ‘Dukes’. Bright, enthusiastic and keen to do the right thing no matter how daunting, he epitomised everything you would want in a JNCO.

“Lance Corporal Shaw’s short time serving in the Coldstream Battle Group was characterised by an invigorating boost of energy brought by his presence. His passing is keenly felt across this Battle Group, and across all ranks and cap badges.

“Lance Corporal Shaw’s tragic death only strengthens our resolve to bring peace and stability to this part of Helmand province. His family’s pain at his passing is reflected here amongst his fellow infantrymen and our thoughts are very much with them at this time.”

Lance Sergeant Steve Stuart, Section Commander, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, said:

Lance Corporal Graham Shaw was a loyal friend and throughout my years of having the pleasure of training, working and socialising with him I found him to have a great sense of humour. He loved his job and always conducted himself in a manner that demonstrated the utmost professionalism.

“An inspiration to all those around him, he will be greatly missed by his friends and both regiments; he devoted his life to the service of both. Rest in peace my friend; my heart is with you and my thoughts are with your family.”

Major Charlie Foinette, Officer Commanding 4 Company, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, said:

We received thirteen men from 3 YORKS at the beginning of January to reinforce the Coldstreamers and their comrades from 2 YORKS [2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment] already operating from this patrol base. From the very first, they have impressed everyone with whom they work.

That they are such a very strong multiple is to a large degree due to the infectious and highly professional personalities of their team commanders. Corporal Riley and Lance Corporal Shaw were these men and will leave a huge gap, not just in their team, but also for the company at large.

“They were extraordinarily fine representatives of the ‘Dukes’ and had made themselves very firmly part of the Coldstream ‘family’ too. The men of this company extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends left behind by Corporal Riley and Lance Corporal Shaw. We will never forget them.

Lance Corporal Shaw was an impressive NCO, clearly respected and popular amongst a very close-knit team. I regret that I knew him for such a short time, but he made firm friends amongst this company. In the few weeks we knew him he demonstrated time and again that he was very much one of us. He will be so sadly missed.

Major Nick McKenzie, Officer Commanding Corunna Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Lance Corporal Shaw trained with the company throughout our pre-deployment training for Op TELIC and Op HERRICK. He deployed to Babaji as a battle casualty replacement with the Coldstream Guards in late December last year. I was amazed with the way in which he handled his short notice deployment, full of beans and ready to get to Afghanistan and do the job that he loved.

“He was a first rate junior commander with bags of military and life experiences. Whilst not deploying in his usual guise as a sniper he was more than happy to deploy as a team commander. He was thriving on the daily challenges that he and his mates were facing.

He was known to us as ‘Shawy’ or ‘Shozza’. Relaxed and calm under pressure, he was always able to provide the goods when required. During pre-deployment training he was always in the thick of the action, charging around on his quad, delivering essential supplies and morale.

“Lance Corporal Shaw died doing the job he loved. He will be sorely missed by us all in the company, but never forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this desperately difficult and sad time.”

Captain Chris Ibbotson, Company Second-in-Command, 3 YORKS, said:

Lance Corporal Shaw was an extremely likeable and capable man, a figurehead for the men under his command. He was always able to see the bright side of any occasion, no matter how bleak, and could always be found helping less experienced, and at times more experienced, individuals when needed.

“Extremely professional, Lance Corporal Shaw also sported an infectious sense of humour. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Captain Simon Farley, Platoon Commander, 3 YORKS, said:

‘Shozza’ was one of life’s true characters and will be missed beyond words. He epitomised what it was to be a soldier. His courage was evident in everything he did and he wore his heart on his sleeve. It was a privilege to have served with him.

“The phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ couldn’t describe his take on life any better. Ever smiling, he approached life with gusto and enjoyed every minute of it.

“My thoughts go out to his family. He will leave a gap in more lives than he would ever know and I will miss him. The loss of ‘Shozza’ is huge and will be felt throughout the regiment for a long time.

“Our thoughts are with his family who will be feeling the loss more acutely than we can imagine.”

Sergeant Adrian Dixon, Platoon Sergeant, 3 YORKS, said:

We got to know each other throughout training, and then saw each other when I joined 3 YORKS. You were the ‘Granddad of the Multiple’ and all the boys looked up to you. Your experience was overwhelming. We are all thinking of your family at this awful time.

Private Luke Davidson, 3 YORKS, said:

‘Shawy’ was always someone you looked up to. Calm and composed, he was a great commander, ready to offer good advice to those less experienced. We will be lost without you.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:

Lance Corporal Shaw was an impressive and respected soldier, and was devoted to his job. He was a natural leader who was popular with the troops, and he will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends, and with his colleagues from both 3 YORKS and the Coldstream Guards.

Corporal Liam Riley stood out to his Commanding Officers as a highly capable soldier who made a valuable contribution to the Army. His courage to the last is an example to all of us and he will be deeply missed by his family, friends and fellow soldiers. My sympathies lie with them all at this most devastating of times.

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