Operations in Afghanistan

Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn killed in Afghanistan

It is with deepest regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn, all of 1st Battalion The Rifles, in southern Afghanistan yesterday, Wednesday 25 February 2009.

Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn (All rights reserved.)
Left to right: Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn (All rights reserved.)

The soldiers died from wounds sustained as a result of an enemy explosion during an escort patrol in the Gereshk district, central Helmand province.

Corporal Tom Gaden, 1st Battalion The Rifles

Corporal Tom Gaden was killed in action on Wednesday 25 February 2009 when the vehicle in which he and two other Riflemen of his Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) were travelling was struck by an IED (improvised explosive device) on the highway east of Gereshk. He was on patrol with his OMLT with whom he had been operating since January 2009.

Corporal Tom Gaden (All rights reserved.)
Corporal Tom Gaden of 1 RIFLES (All rights reserved.)

Tom Gaden was born on 23 November 1984 in Taunton, attending Bishop Fox’s Community School. He took part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and had been a member of the Blackbrook Scout Troop.

He enlisted into the Army in Taunton and, on completion of the Combat Infantryman’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, was posted to 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry (2 LI, later to become 3 RIFLES) on 25 November 2002.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2005 and attended the Section Commanders Battle Course in the summer of 2006. His performance was remarked upon as the ‘best of the 2 LI batch’.

He served on Op TELIC 2 (Iraq) and on peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, joining the 2 LI Recce (Reconnaissance) Platoon where he was ‘zealous and enthusiastic’ by nature, earning the respect of his peers and becoming one of the most popular members of his platoon.

Corporal Gaden was posted to 1st Battalion The Rifles (1 RIFLES) in February 2008, moving to E Company that April, and was immediately selected to attend the Close Quarters Battle Skills Course with a view to passing on these skills to the company for the tour to Afghanistan.

However, he was almost immediately selected to deploy as a Section Commander to Umm Qasr, Iraq, as part of the battalion’s commitment to that operational theatre. He spent four months working with the Naval Transition Team before redeploying just after Christmas 2008 to rejoin his original team in a remote Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Helmand, southern Afghanistan.

Corporal Gaden was a competent and assuredly professional operator, selected for the technically complex skills of Close Quarters Battle, then selected again to carry out a discrete and independent task for the battalion.

He took these rapid changes in his stride, remaining resourceful and flexible to the operational requirements and always relishing the challenge. He thrived in Iraq and led his section with skill and determination throughout that short tour.

On arrival in Afghanistan, he immediately involved himself in the small team environment in an isolated and austere FOB as team third-in-command, stepping up where necessary as second-in-command of the team.

Corporal Gaden was a Rifleman of the calibre that has shaped the regiment’s reputation and the battalion’s character and ethos. He was well known for his strong faith and deep sense of duty, which was reflected in his qualities as a commander and friend to those around him.

He was part of the future of this great organisation and his sacrifice will be felt by all Riflemen. Our sense of loss cannot match the sorrow and grief that is being felt by Corporal Gaden’s family, and his fiancee. Our prayers are with them at this time.

Once a Rifleman, always a Rifleman, ‘Swift and Bold’.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cavanagh, Commanding Officer, 1 RIFLES, said:

The news that Corporal Tom Gaden had been killed by an Improvised Explosive Device was devastating for the battalion and heart-breaking for his family and friends.

It has been a bitter blow. Of all of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, Tom’s was one of the tightest knit, as a result of its relative isolation and the challenges the team has overcome in the course of this tour; of consolation to Tom and his fellow heroic Riflemen will be the fact that they fell together.

I remember Tom from my 2 LI days in Edinburgh; there he was already showing great potential and the signs that he would develop into an outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). He was already a popular and respected leader.

In addition he had amassed rich, impressive achievements and experiences from outside Army life - most of all his beloved young family - and as a result he will be very badly and widely missed.

Major Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Kitson, Officer Commanding E Company, 1 RIFLES, said:

I had the uncomfortable duty of welcoming Corporal Gaden into the company on the same day as I had to task him for a four-month tour of Iraq. He took the news in a manner befitting his calm and professional reputation. His only concern was that he should be able to get back to E Company as quickly as possible, which he did in January of this year.

He had an immediate impact on his team, galvanising the Riflemen’s efforts and surging forward with a passion for the task at hand. He showed a significant degree of care and compassion for his Riflemen, no doubt emanating from the strong faith that he held at the centre of his life.

The company mourns a great leader and a firm friend.

Captain Rich Camp, Team Commander OMLT 9, said:

Corporal Tom Gaden joined OMLT 9 at the start of the year having served the four previous months in Iraq. Initially the team third-in-command, he had recently stepped up as my second-in-command and it was in that role he was serving on 25 February 2009 as a vehicle commander.

His professional competence and diligence were clear for all to see - he saw the Riflemen who worked for him as being a great responsibility which he served tirelessly. His love of the Army was an inspirational driving force for everyone, and his experience and professional knowledge were of great benefit to us all.

Much of his time was spent with the lads training in the gym and he was a physically strong man. It would not be unusual to see him with a group of willing volunteers running phys [physical training] after a patrol; a testament to his nature and the admiration the team had for him.

An exceptional NCO and natural leader, the loss of Tom is a crushing blow to the OMLT, professionally and personally. He was a close friend to us all and held in high regard across the regiment.

I know however this will be felt most keenly by his parents and young family in Taunton, of whom he talked a great deal - my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

A/Cpl (Acting Corporal) Woolley, A/Cpl Southwick, A/Cpl O’Neill and Rifleman Diamond, OMLT 9 team-mates, paid the following tribute:

Cpl Gaden, ‘Tomo’ as he was known to us, was a very keen soldier who took the role of 2IC [second-in-command] when he came to Afghanistan. He was a much loved and respected Rifleman to us all.

Tomo will be missed for his keenness and his passion for the job, and his love and loyalty to his friends and family.

Reveille, Tom.

Corporal Gaden’s mother Judy, father Nick, fiancee Amanda, sister Ruth and brother Sam made the following statement:

Tom was an inspiration to the whole family. He was a soldier through and through and the rock that kept our family together.

He was very loving, never judged anyone and was always very supportive, nothing was ever too much trouble for him.

We are trying to come to terms with our devastating loss and kindly request that the media respects our need for privacy.

Lance Corporal Paul ‘Uppers’ Upton, 1st Battalion The Rifles

Acting Lance Corporal Paul Upton was killed in action when the vehicle in which he and two other Riflemen of his OMLT were travelling was struck by an IED on the highway east of Gereshk on Wednesday 25 February 2009. He was on patrol with his OMLT with whom he had been operating since April 2008.

Lance Corporal Paul Upton (All rights reserved.)
Lance Corporal Paul Upton of 1 RIFLES (All rights reserved.)

Paul Upton was born in Paderborn on 17 March 1977. On completion of his Combat Infantryman’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick he was posted to A Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, on 24 February 1997.

He served in the anti-tank platoon with a tour to Northern Ireland and exercises in Canada. Lance Corporal Upton left the Army in 2000 to pursue other interests, although he was deployed as a reservist to Kosovo with the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. He re-enlisted in December 2007 and was posted to E Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles, in April 2008 in time to commence pre-deployment training for their operational tour in Afghanistan alongside his brother Leon, a serjeant [spelling of ‘sergeant’ with a ‘j’ is unique to The Rifles] in C Company of the same battalion.

Lance Corporal Upton was thirty-one years old. Mature and experienced, he immediately settled back into regimental life. It was as if he had never been away and he clearly relished being back in the battalion environment and back with many of his friends from his former regiment.

His determined and friendly manner was evident in his energetic approach to all he did, and he took many of the younger Riflemen under his wing, offering advice, but never forcing it, and ‘digging out blind’ at all tasks. He led by example and encouraged others with boundless enthusiasm and a ready smile.

He was a clear candidate for the forthcoming Non-Commissioned Officer cadre and had already shown his ability and potential as an Acting Lance Corporal during the tour.

As a mentor to the Afghan National Army, his patience and maturity shone through and he was a vital part of the mentoring effort.

This tragic loss will be felt sorely by all who knew him in the battalion, and particularly by his team-mates. He was a constant presence and a rock for the team, bearing adversity and hardship with consummate ease and a constantly bright outlook on life, which was a bonus to all who knew him.

However, we feel most for the sorrow and grief of Paul’s parents Peter and Christine, his brother Leon, and his much loved son Jake. Our sense of loss is nothing compared to their grief and we are thinking and praying for them at this time.

Once a Rifleman, always a Rifleman, ‘Swift and Bold’.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cavanagh, Commanding Officer, 1 RIFLES, said:

It has been very difficult to come to terms with the death of Lance Corporal Paul Upton, killed yesterday by an improvised explosive device while patrolling with his fellow Riflemen.

While the battalion has rallied round - most of all to support his proud and immensely popular and talented brother, Serjeant Leon Upton, of C Company - it has been devastating. Paul was a slightly unusual Rifleman, in that he had only recently re-joined after a long spell in ‘civvy street’.

I remember as if it was yesterday his first day back in the battalion as we bantered in the corridor; his sense of excitement was palpable and inspiring, and it was quite clear to all of us that he knew that he was back where he belonged.

We are proud of this young man - and the decisions he has taken - and will miss him terribly.

Major Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Kitson, Officer Commanding E Company, 1 RIFLES, said:

Acting Lance Corporal Upton was an ideal Rifleman: constantly upbeat, diligent and a grafter who worked hard for others before himself. His determination to get back into the swing of things having re-joined the Army was evident from the start of the pre-deployment package and he was recognised instantly as a future Junior Non-Commissioned Officer. He clearly loved his profession and he cared deeply for his fellow Riflemen.

Polite and well-mannered, his tidiness and attention to administrative detail were legendary, to the point of obsession. However, this made him a perfect vehicle 2IC and he was never to be found without all his kit and equipment in perfect readiness for any task.

The company has lost a dear friend and a great character who will be remembered as the quintessential Rifleman.

Captain Rich Camp, Team Commander OMLT 9, said:

Acting Lance Corporal Paul Upton (‘Uppers’) joined my team at the very start of pre-deployment training and brought far more than his rank would suggest.

He was mature and caring, treating everyone he met with kindness and respect. In terms of professionalism, he was consummate. His years of experience were of significant benefit to us all, and counted for a great deal on the ground. He always had time to chat to the lads and was the centre of a lot of morale in the team.

Uppers was a keen and talented artist who spent a lot of his spare time with his sketch book. The results were outstanding. He designed all manner of things, and indeed had a waiting list for tattoo designs across the Forward Operating Base in which we worked. Uppers was one of the most organised men I have ever met and this, combined with his enduring patience, made him an outstanding asset and hugely valuable when dealing with the Afghan National Army.

Uppers was a genuinely kind person with time for anyone who needed it - one of life’s true gentlemen. His talk was often of his boy and brother, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his whole family who will be feeling this terrible loss the most.

“It was a true honour to serve with him, and he is sorely missed as a close friend by the whole team.”

A/Cpl Woolley, A/Cpl Southwick, A/Cpl O’Neill and Rfn Diamond, OMLT 9 team-mates, paid the following tribute:

LCpl Upton was better known as ‘Uppers’. For a soldier who had been out of the forces for eight years, to re-enlist in time for pre-deployment to Afghanistan, Uppers rolled back into the way of life as if he had not been out.

He was an excellent Rifleman to work alongside, as all of the team would tell you. He will be best remembered for his obsession for cleaning and his artistic drawings and being an outstanding and well-loved Rifleman.

Lance Corporal Upton’s mother, Tina, said:

Paul had his life cut short doing a job he loved and he will be greatly missed by family and friends.

Rifleman Jamie Gunn, 1st Battalion The Rifles

Rifleman Jamie Gunn was killed in action when the vehicle in which he and two other Riflemen of his OMLT were travelling was struck by an IED on the highway east of Gereshk on Wednesday 25 February 2009. He was on patrol with his OMLT with whom he had been operating since April 2008.

Rifleman Jamie Gunn (All rights reserved.)
Rifleman Jamie Gunn of 1 RIFLES (All rights reserved.)

Jamie Gunn was born on 4 August 1987 in Leamington Spa and grew up in Monmouth, Wales. He was selected as an apprentice for Land Rover before deciding that his future lay in the Armed Forces.

Soon after turning twenty, he enlisted into the Army in Hereford on 20 November 2007. Whilst waiting to start his basic training he worked long hours to get to the peak of physical fitness. He successfully completed his Combat Infantryman’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick in May 2008, triumphing over an injury to reach the required standard.

On passing out from the centre he was posted to E Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles, in Beachley, Gloucestershire. He was twenty-one years old.

As a new Rifleman in the newly formed company, Rifleman Gunn settled in quickly to the hectic pace of pre-deployment training where his previous experience as a Land Rover mechanic was put to good use.

Practical with his hands and always keen to help, he was an asset to the team in making their life more comfortable when in the rough conditions of exercise and later on operations in Helmand, southern Afghanistan.

Careful in his choice of friends, he was a loyal and conscientious young man who was enthusiastic about his expectant career.

Predictably, he came out of his shell once the tour started in earnest, quickly establishing himself as a core member of his team and earning the respect of his commanders and fellow Riflemen alike.

Humorous, and at the centre of every banter session, he was clearly relishing his chosen profession, taking pride in his work and totally at ease in the harsh and austere working environment of these eight-man teams.

His valuable work with the soldiers of the Afghan National Army saw them develop noticeably over the months he acted as a mentor.

He was an integral part of a small and tight knit team, forged by common experience and communal struggle. His loss drives a deep sadness into this team and he will be sorely missed by those who will continue the struggle.

Our pain does not compare to the grief of his parents, Janet and Mervyn, and his sister Jess; our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.

Once a Rifleman, always a Rifleman, ‘Swift and Bold’.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cavanagh, Commanding Officer, 1 RIFLES, said:

I was shocked and stunned by the news early yesterday morning that Rifleman Jamie Gunn had been killed with two fellow Riflemen by an improvised explosive device. This was a terrible shock for us and will be heart-rending for his family and friends.

For one so young and inexperienced at the start of this operation, he had been performing superbly, and had grown into a very impressive, mature and confident Rifleman.

He was showing as much potential as anyone and would no doubt have ‘smashed’ through the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer training later this year as he pressed on to even bigger and better things.

We will remember his enviably calm, cool attitude under pressure - and his smile when the going was better. He will be very deeply missed.

Major Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Kitson, Officer Commanding E Company, 1 RIFLES, said:

Rifleman Gunn was a typical example of the calibre of young men in this Battle Group, and showed all the characteristics and grit that have helped to make the mentoring mission here in Helmand so successful.

As a junior member of the company during the pre-deployment training package, he was relatively quiet and unassuming, but he listened intently, took on board the lessons being taught, and worked hard to establish himself in his Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team. His skills as a former apprentice mechanic were quickly pressed into service.

When I saw him in January, I did not recognise the fresh faced young Rifleman I had met in May last year. He was confident, assured, clearly at the top of his game as a soldier - a professional in all aspects. Despite his relative lack of experience, his Team Commander had already identified him as a potential Junior Non-Commissioned Officer.

We have lost a fine Rifleman and a dear friend.

Captain Rich Camp, Team Commander OMLT 9, said:

Rifleman Jamie Gunn (‘Gunny’) joined my team fresh out of training and quickly established himself as a key member of it, deploying with OMLT 9 to Afghanistan in September 2008. Working in a difficult environment where maturity is critical, he impressed all who had the pleasure to work with him.

He was immensely popular; ever smiling and always willing to laugh whatever the situation. Physically and mentally strong, Gunny worked tirelessly alongside his team-mates - no job was ever too big and he was never too tired to ‘crack on’ and get something sorted if it needed doing. He was often to be found at the centre of the banter, giving easily as good as he got, passing the time with the many close friends he had around him.

He retained a cool head regardless of the situation throughout the tour, something of great credit to a man of his age. He learned and understood his core business remarkably quickly and had clear aspirations for life in the regiment after Afghanistan; I have no doubt that he would have thrived in The Rifles.

Working in the teams we do, fellow Riflemen stop being colleagues and start being friends in the first few days - it is an honour to say he was a good friend of mine; a feeling echoed by every man in the team.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and sister of whom he talked a great deal, and who will be feeling this tragic loss more than anyone.

A/Cpl Woolley, A/Cpl Southwick, A/Cpl O’Neill and Rfn Diamond, OMLT 9 team-mates, paid the following tribute:

Rifleman Gunn, also known as ‘Gunny’, or ‘Gumbo’, was a fairly new and young Rifleman, but that did not stop him from being outstanding at his job and having a brilliant sense of humour. He was loved by all that worked with him.

He will best be remembered for being the only welshman who was scared of sheep and for being a brilliant friend to us all.

Rifleman Gunn’s family, including his mother Janet, father Mervyn, and sister Jessica, made the following statement:

Jamie’s proudest desire was that he wanted to shine in life.

He was a funny, popular lad who loved his mates and the girls but most of all we are so proud of our son, brother and grandson who will always shine in our hearts forever.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

I learned with sorrow of the deaths of Corporal Tom Gaden, Lance Corporal Paul Upton, and Rifleman Jamie Gunn.

To lose three men of this calibre in a single incident is a sad day for The Rifles, and indeed for our Forces as a family.

All three were dedicated and professional soldiers, and they were doing vital work to bring stability to Afghanistan and, by extension, greater security to us all.

The extraordinary challenges faced by our personnel and the strain on their families are always in my mind, and today my thoughts and prayers are with the families of these three brave men.

The families have requested privacy at this difficult time.