It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence have confirmed the deaths of three soldiers in Basra, southern Iraq yesterday morning, Thursday 28 June 2007.
Corporal Paul Joszko, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Regiment of Wales), aged 28 from Mountain Ash, Wales, together with Privates Scott Kennedy, aged 20 from Oakley, Dunfermline and James (Jamie) Kerr, aged 20 from Cowdenbeath of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device attack. The device detonated at approximately 0100hrs local time against the soldiers, who were dismounted from a Warrior patrol in the Al Amtahiya district in the southeast of Basra City.
The soldiers were serving as part of the British contingent of Multi-National Forces in southeast Iraq. A further British soldier was very seriously injured and is currently receiving treatment at the military field hospital in Basra.
Our thoughts are with the families at this most difficult time.
Corporal Paul Joszko - 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh
Lieutenant Colonel James Swift MBE, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh paid the following tribute to him:
The death of any soldier, whether on operations or by accident is a tragic loss, but when three young men are killed in the same incident it amplifies the impact. Yesterday Corporal Paul Joszko, aged 28, from Mountain Ash in Wales, and two of his soldiers were killed by an insurgent’s explosive device in the Mutashfa district of Basra. They were all professional soldiers doing their duty in the dangerous conditions that pervade in Iraq. They will be very sorely missed.
Paul’s company, B (Rorke’s Drift) Company of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, was assisting with the security for the move of a sustainment convoy from Basra Palace to the main British base in southern Iraq. These convoys are essential to maintain the force and they are by their very nature large and ponderous. Thus they require protection in depth and B Company was clearing the route ahead of the convoy when the bomb struck. Paul had dismounted with his men, leading from the front as normal. He was killed instantly.
Paul was an excellent soldier; he was amongst the best of his generation. He was particularly strong in the field even as a private soldier, and he passed the Section Commanders Battle Course with ease. He had recently returned from training recruits in Catterick and was a very strong contender for promotion to sergeant. He had a cheerful, warm character and was loved by his men and respected by all those he met. He always looked scruffy, had a cheeky smile and a cigarette in his hand, but he never failed to deliver the goods.
“He had a wicked sense of humour and was always in the heart of any practical jokes. He was doggedly loyal, acutely professional and led his men firmly but also with style and enormous compassion. There was nothing complicated about him; he loved soldiering, looked after his men, and led by example. Being such a character and future star he was very well known across the Battalion and throughout his Battle Group in Iraq, 4th Battalion The Rifles, and he leaves behind a huge hole.
Whilst in Iraq, Paul played a full part in the Company’s tasks. He has successfully provided security for several sustainment convoys, he has been part of the cordon for strike operations, and he has helped to defend his base in the heart of Basra. On all these tasks he has been outstanding. He led his section superbly and they were always ready for what was asked of them.
“He anticipated both their needs and the intent of his superiors. His subordinates looked up to him, his peers sought his advice and his superiors respected his knowledge, professionalism and determination; they all liked him. He was a truly excellent Junior Non-Commissioned Officer; if only all soldiers were as good as he was and such a genuine pleasure to know.
We were very lucky to share in Paul’s life, his energy, his dynamism and his positive spirit, but at this terrible time our thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his parents Linda and David and his sister Maria. Tragically his son Dylan is nearly 11 months old, and his girlfriend Kayleigh is carrying their second child. Paul was a loving son and was, I am sure, an exceptional partner and father. He loved his job and he died serving his country. We are all devastated by his death and will miss him enormously.
Corporal Joszko’s Company Commander, Major Steve Webb, said:
Corporal Paul David Joszko, ‘Josk’, was one of the most professional soldiers and junior commanders I have had the privilege of serving with. He had a dedication to his role both as a soldier and as a leader of men that inspired confidence and he was deeply respected throughout the Company. It was this dedication that motivated him to volunteer to deploy early to Iraq in order that he could gain a deeper understanding of operations in time for the Company’s deployment. He loved his job and was the epitome of what a Section Commander should be.
It is difficult to fully understand the ‘X’ factor that Corporal Joszko brought to his Platoon and the Company. He was part of the glue that bonds any tight-knit organisation together, right at the heart of all things good, whether it be adapting and learning new skills or simply providing a positive outlook in difficult situations. He was a soldier’s soldier. There was no ‘other’ side to him and he was acutely aware of the privilege of command and the burden of responsibility that came with it.
“He welcomed new soldiers into his platoon and ensured that they were fully integrated. It was because of this that he took it upon himself to train all new soldiers into theatre to make sure that they were prepared to deploy onto the streets. This training, as with all things he did, was calm, assured and infused confidence in those around him. He was also always cheerful and constructive. He was just like that. He didn’t complain or whinge, he adapted and overcame, always bringing those for whom he bore responsibility with him. He coupled all this with a great sense of humour. He was genuinely funny with plenty of practical jokes - and yet it was always done in a positive, constructive way.
Paul Joszko was also a family man, deeply committed to his girlfriend and son and keenly anticipating the next arrival to the Joszko clan. He often spoke of how much he was looking forward to the birth of his second child and he was clearly besotted with the family he already has.
Corporal Paul Joszko was a valued member of his platoon and the Company. In addition to losing a fine soldier, the Company has lost one of the most genuine, honest and affable people I have met. His loss is tragic and deeply felt.
His Company Sergeant-Major, Mark Kretzschmar, said:
Corporal Joszko was truly an outstanding soldier and Junior Non-Commissioned Officer. He always led from the front and was everything you would look for in a Junior Commander. He had few airs and graces and what you saw was what you got. He was loved and respected by all those who served with him. I had the honour to serve with him as a Platoon Sergeant and Company Sergeant-Major and you would not want a better man by your side.
Captain Ed Wilcox, a former platoon commander, said:
Paul was a streetwise and robust individual who genuinely enjoyed infantry soldiering in its most low-level form. Soldiering for him was all bund lines and fire positions; the Warrior Platoon really just being the means of delivery for him and his Section. He was a Warrior driver once upon a time but was loathe to admit it, as if that knowledge somehow diluted his dismounted expertise. He was at his happiest on exercise in Canada I think; endless Section attacks and a month of the camaraderie of his Section in the back of the Warrior. He was a talented soldier who led by example - and who was very happy when posted to depot to have the opportunity to train the next generation of dismounts in his own mould.
Private Rhys Thomas said:
A professional team commander and also one of the boys. All the boys respected him and he always looked after the younger lads when they needed help.
Lance-Corporal John ‘Jock’ Fowler (3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, attached to 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh) said:
His communication skills were second to none. He was a favourite among the boys from 6 Platoon not just because he was a magic ambassador for his Regiment but also because he was just very funny. My thoughts are with his girlfriend, son and family.
Lance-Corporal Michael ‘Patsy’ Palmer said:
He always had such a positive attitude. He was a friend, brother and father to me when I first joined the Battalion.
Private Scott Kennedy - The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland
Lieutenant Colonel James Swift MBE, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh paid the following tribute:
Early yesterday morning a roadside bomb tragically killed 3 soldiers serving the 4th Battalion the RIFLES Battle Group in Basra, southern Iraq. They were all part of B (Rorke’s Drift) Company from the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, and they were helping to protect an important logistic convoy. The unexpected death of anyone is tragic, but the death of three soldiers as a result of the same bomb whilst serving their country and trying to improve the conditions in Iraq is awful.
Private Scott Kennedy, known to all as Casper, was one of these courageous men. As he bravely dismounted from his Warrior armoured fighting vehicle to check that the area was safe, the improvised explosive device was detonated and killed him instantly. He was a young, enthusiastic soldier. He had volunteered to leave the peace in Northern Ireland where his regiment is based, to reinforce the Royal Welsh for their operational tour in Iraq. He gave his life for his friends and his country.
Scott, aged 20 from Oakley, Dunfermline had not been in the Army long, but was already a very competent soldier. He worked hard, was a strong team player and loved his job. He had a great sense of humour and was a real pleasure to serve with. He could appear shy but he was not, he was his own man. He had a fantastic sense of humour and was always at the centre of events. He would do anything for anyone and the blokes loved him.
At this terrible time all our thoughts are with Scott’s family, especially his mother and father Carol and Kenneth. We will miss Scott very much, we will learn from his example, and we will honour his memory.
Private Kennedy’s Company Commander, Major Steven Webb, said:
Private Scott Kennedy, or ‘Casper’ as he was known to all, volunteered to be attached to 2 Royal Welsh from January in order to train for, and deploy on, Operation TELIC as part of B (Rorke’s Drift) Company from May to December 2007. He was a valued member of the platoon and he played his part to the full: hard-working, conscientious and very aware of the team around him and his role in it. In addition he was the sort of character that was always willing to contribute to solutions in a positive and constructive way.
Scott could appear quiet and perhaps a little shy, particularly to those that did not know him better. However, those who took the time to get to know him quickly realised that there was so much more beneath the surface. He was quick-witted, intelligent and possessed a razor-sharp sense of humour and steely resolve.
“He was also his own man: more than prepared to play his part in the team, but definitely not one to follow the crowd for the sake of it. In addition to his mischievous humour he was well-known for his love of Kung-Fu films and South Park. It was this combination of team-spirit and individuality that made his platoon and the Company much stronger for his presence. He will be greatly, greatly missed.
Scott was also looking forward to the birth of his first child with his girlfriend, Vicky. He often talked about how much he was looking forward to being a father. Our thoughts go out to her at this most difficult time.
Captain Richard Moger, his Platoon Commander, said:
He contributed to the Platoon as a highly competent soldier and a hard-worker. But more than that he was a great bloke, always ready with a joke or sharp riposte. It was fantastic to have him around.
Private Barrie Green said:
Casper always had the cheeky smile when he was up to no good and he had that look in the corner of his eye to see if anyone was watching. He will be sadly missed as one of the great lads in the Platoon.
Private Kris Fotheringham said:
Scott Kennedy, aka Casper van Dien, will always be remembered. He was a ‘straight’ stand-up comedian and full of laughter. He had a new baby on the way and loved telling us that he couldn’t wait to be a dad.
Private Kennedy’s family issued the following statement:
We are devastated by the loss of our son, Scott. Even as a child, he was determined to join the Army and was a very proud soldier. His grandfather, who served with the Black Watch in Korea, was a great influence on him, and we also supported him in following his dream.
Although we are heartbroken, we are comforted by the fact that he died doing the job he loved. Scott was a wonderful, happy-go-lucky, kind son who always had a smile on his face. He will be greatly missed by all of his family.
Private Jamie Kerr - The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland
Lieutenant Colonel James Swift MBE, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh paid the following tribute:
On Thursday 28 June 2007, Private Jamie Kerr, aged 20 from Cowdenbeath, was killed by a roadside bomb in southeast Basra. He was a good soldier, with a very promising future who gave up his life whilst serving his country. There can be no higher testament to a man.
Jamie joined The Black Watch in 2005 and was serving with them in Northern Ireland until earlier this year when he volunteered to reinforce the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh for our operational tour in Iraq. He quickly settled in to his platoon in B (Rorke’s Drift) Company and learnt fast on our pre-deployment training.
“In Iraq, he was deployed as a dismount in the back of the Platoon Commander’s Warrior armoured fighting vehicle. He had successfully conducted strike operations, protected convoys, and helped to defend his base. He had previously been involved in a contact with the insurgents and had displayed courage and professionalism under fire.
Jamie was a popular, happy young man who enjoyed soldiering and was good at it. He applied himself, worked hard and was very much a team player. He was dependable, professional and enthusiastic. He was already displaying potential for promotion to Lance Corporal and was expected to attend a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer’s course on completion of his tour.
Last night Jamie’s company was clearing the route and providing protection for an important sustainment convoy. Jamie’s vehicle stopped so that the soldiers in the back could dismount a check that the area was safe. A large improvised explosive device was detonated and all four of them were hit. Sadly Jamie died from his injuries.
At this terrible time all our thoughts are with Jamie’s family especially his parents and grandmother. Our loss is their tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with them all.
His Company Commander, Major Stephen Webb, said:
Private Jamie Kerr had been attached to B (Rorke’s Drift) Company since the end of January having volunteered to come with us on Operation TELIC 10. He was a very good soldier; skilled and intelligent. In Iraq, his Platoon Commander was able to trust him with many difficult roles knowing that Jamie would succeed, which is exactly what is required on operations.
“On occasion these roles required great personal bravery; Jamie never flinched. He was also a team player, again vital on operations where the lives of his comrades depended on each man doing their job. Jamie took this further and he was always willing to learn new skills and intelligent enough to apply them in differing situations.
In the short time that Jamie had been with us there was not much time away from operations, but Jamie had already stood out as a bit of a legend. He was known throughout the Company as having a fantastic sense of humour and being a natural entertainer, whether it was jokes or dancing (at which he was actually very good).
“Whenever there was a group of soldiers from the Company laughing and joking it was odds on that Jamie Kerr would be at the centre of the group, entertaining everyone. When I talked to him for the first time, I was immediately struck by his easy-going nature and willing smile. He was naturally charismatic and great fun to be around.
Jamie was a very strong and positive influence on his platoon. He was a skilled soldier, keen to play his part and to learn new skills. He was also charismatic and great fun to be around with the ability to lift the morale of whole groups, at very difficult times. By the time of his death Jamie’s platoon had become an extremely effective and tight-knit group, due in no small part to the contributions made by him and his friends. Our thoughts go out to his family at this very difficult time; he will be missed enormously by his many colleagues and friends.
Captain Richard Moger, his Platoon Commander, said:
Whenever I chatted to him I couldn’t help but smile, his humour was infectious. But he knew exactly where to draw the line and when it came to work he was professional and highly competent. We have lost a good friend and valued colleague.
Private Rhys Thomas said:
He always cheered me up and made me laugh when I was feeling down with his crazy personality and antics. Always good for morale no matter what time of day or circumstances.
Private Alasdair Lavery said:
The spontaneous and infectious character of Jamie Kerr, a morale boost 24/7. He will always be remembered.
The Defence Secretary Des Browne said:
The death of three British soldiers in Iraq yesterday is heart-rending. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country and their families are in my thoughts; the loved ones they have lost are true heroes. Their work, and that of all our armed forces, to rebuild Iraq is inspiring and their efforts will not be forgotten.