Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett, aged 22, from Pontardawe in Swansea, died as a result of an explosion near Musa Qaleh in Afghanistan on the morning of Saturday 14 March 2009. He was part of a foot patrol from C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, who are working to help extend and enforce the writ of the Government of Afghanistan.
LCpl Harkett was trained at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate and subsequently at Catterick before joining the battalion in March 2004 in Paderborn, Germany. He started in B (Rorke’s Drift) Company and soon afterwards deployed with them to Iraq where he did exceptionally well.
He trained as a team medic so that he could look after his mates if they were injured, trained as a Warrior Gunner so that he could defend himself and his colleagues, and later qualified as a signaller so that he could ensure that critical information was passed to headquarters as soon as possible.
Being an intelligent man, LCpl Harkett was always quick to learn, but he was also very dedicated and keen to help. He showed great promise and, earlier than normal, was selected for a promotion cadre in September 2005. He was promoted to Lance Corporal the following January.
LCpl Harkett then transferred to the elite Reconnaissance Platoon as he was an experienced and very able soldier, and deployed with them on a very demanding and dangerous tour in Iraq in 2007 where, again, he did very well.
He was one of the first to volunteer to deploy with his mates to Afghanistan as a sniper. He had already had a full and successful career and had a very bright future ahead of him, just like his father and grandfather before him.
LCpl Harkett was very much a son of the regiment and has been known by many as a boy and now as a man. His grandfather joined the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers in 1946 and earned a commendation on operations in Malaya; and his father joined The Royal Regiment of Wales in 1984 and had an excellent career over 26 years reaching Warrant Officer Class 1.
LCpl Harkett was born only two years after his father joined the regiment in 1986 and has grown up with many of today’s soldiers or their children. He was always at the centre of the fun and was always liked by those who met him.
He was a keen and active boy gaining all sorts of awards for outdoor pursuits and playing football in a local league. It was natural for him to join his father’s regiment as soon as he could which is what he did as a boy soldier in December 2002.
Danielle Harkett, LCpl Harkett’s wife, said:
To my darling husband, friend and companion. I cannot begin to describe the pain and hurt I feel knowing I will not be with you again. I only have the memories of our short life together, but I’m grateful that I had the privilege and honour to be your wife.
You will be in my heart for the rest of my life and I will never forget the time we had together. You are the most special person in my life Chris, and your death does not bring the end to that. I have adored you from the moment we met, and I will never love any man the way I love you.
I will never forget you Chris, I love you forever and always. From your loving wife, Danielle x x x x x x.
Gerwyn, Alicia and Kyle Harkett, LCpl Harkett’s parents and his brother, said:
Chris was our beloved son. Although he has been taken from us at a young age, he lived life to the full. Our hearts are empty at this moment but we find some peace in that he died bravely protecting people of a land that was far from his home.
He leaves behind a beautiful and loving wife and a younger brother who adored him. He will remain in our hearts and the memories of him will be with us forever. Goodnight our darling son, you will remain forever young.
With all our love, your father Gerwyn, mother Alicia, and loving brother Kyle. Gwell Angau na Chywilydd.
Cpl Graham Day and family, LCpl Harkett’s in-laws, said:
No words could ever truly symbolise the sentiments of loss and regret felt following your untimely demise. As a soldier I would follow you into any field of battle; as a person I would enter any situation to be by your side; as a father I trusted you impeccably with the heart, welfare and protection of my daughter; these are the highest honours I could possibly bestow.
You warrant the greatest respect, your integrity and commitment to others was always beyond reproach. It is a shock that such a good-natured, kind-hearted, generous, respectful young man has been taken from us so abruptly.
You are the embodiment of a young gentleman of yester-year with many seemingly forgotten values; you were an example to all who knew you. We miss and love you Chris, you died doing your duty and the job you lived for, and we can only aspire to respect your memory by being at least half the person you were.
Chris, it is impossible to put in words how much we will all miss you. You had a massive effect on us as a family and each of us as individuals. It was our privilege and honour to accept you into our family, the love in you for Danielle was apparent and we would not have wished for her anyone other than yourself.
You will live for evermore in the heart of anyone that ever met you, but more so with us. As cliched as it may appear, when you married Danielle we never lost a daughter but really did gain a son, brother and friend. You are irreplaceable for each of us, we will miss your physical presence but cherish the memories you leave us with.
With the utmost love and respect, from Graham, Brenda, Rachel, Michael and Maria.
Joey Callaghan, the best man at LCpl Harkett’s wedding to Danielle, said:
Chris was the kindest, funniest, most loving person I have ever met; he was always there for me when I needed him and when I was down he always brought me up. I have not only lost my best friend I have lost my brother; it feels like a part of me has gone as well.
Even though you have gone you will always be with me and never be forgotten; love you mate, Joey Callaghan xx.
Lieutenant Colonel James Swift, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Chris was without doubt one of the characters of the battalion. He was a constant source of good humour and amusement. He was always cheerful, worked tirelessly without complaint, and could always be relied upon to see a job through.
He was very well liked in his platoon and throughout the battalion. Many of us have had the pleasure and honour of knowing him all his life and we will all miss him terribly. All our thoughts and prayers are with his new wife and his family at this tragic time.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Mark Hughes, Company Sergeant Major and family friend, said:
I have known Christopher for almost 19 years. As I was serving with his father Gerwyn, over the years I’ve watched him grow up to become a fine young man and soldier.
Even as a young boy he was always polite and considerate to others and always had a smile on his face that let everyone know he was enjoying life. It was always a pleasure to stop and chat with him. I watched him as a teenager doing karate, which was something he was very good at; I could see then that he would excel in anything he wanted to do.
As a soldier he was achieving all his aims in life with ease, becoming a Lance Corporal was great for Chris as he was able to show everyone his great potential to go far. I was lucky enough to have him under my command last year in the Recce/Sniper platoon.
Always with a smile on his face, he brought bags of morale to the platoon and was the life and soul of the party. He was a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer that led by example, and was first to step up to the mark when C Company needed more manpower for their deployment. A well liked and loved member of the battalion, Christopher will be truly missed by all - young, old, past and present.
My thoughts go out to all Christopher’s family at this very sad time.
Major Sid Welham, Officer Commanding C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Lance Corporal Chris ‘H’ Harkett personified the spirit and character of The Royal Welsh. ‘H’ was ever smiling and always motivated whatever the situation. At the heart of his platoon, he was essential to their high morale. Having grown up as a ‘son’ of the battalion he was known and liked by all, dealing out constant banter to all ranks.
His resolve of character was clear as a lifelong Swansea City Football Club fan, never tired of baiting those Cardiff City fans in the company. His infectious humour and enthusiasm ensured that he provided the best form of leadership to some of the company’s youngest soldiers.
A highly motivated soldier he had been quick to volunteer to serve on the battalion’s first deployment to Afghanistan. ‘H’ took immense pride in his consummate skill as one of the company’s snipers, always reassuring his platoon that he would cover their ‘6’ [backs]. It was just such a situation that led to his passing, when he selflessly moved into a fire position to cover his mates’ advance.
A dedicated family man he constantly spoke with absolute affection of his wife Danielle. Extremely close to his parents, he was outwardly proud of following in his father’s footsteps (a former Warrant Officer in the battalion) and was well on the way to emulating that career.
He is a huge loss to C Company and the regiment as a whole. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
‘H’ Harkett, a huge character, professional soldier, Welsh to the core - a true Welsh Warrior.
Captain Alex Rabbitt, 9 Platoon Commander, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
I have known ‘H’ since my arrival at the battalion and have had the honour of being his platoon commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a trustworthy, professional and reliable soldier with a real passion for sniping.
His final act summed him up as he showed bravery and selfless commitment by pushing across open ground in clear view of the enemy to give covering fire for his friends. His sense of humour meant that he was a friend to all who knew him.
He was always the life and soul of the platoon and a constant source of morale. My heart goes out to his friends, family and wife, Danielle. He will be sorely missed.
Sergeant Geraint Evans, Mortar Platoon Sergeant, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Lance Corporal Harkett, Chris to his friends and family, was quite clearly an outstanding soldier who was always full of life and up for a joke. He first came on the scene at the age of 10 when his father used to ask members of the platoon to babysit for him in Germany.
Even at that young age, he had a soldier’s sense of humour. We knew he’d follow in his father’s footsteps, following his work experience with me. When he finally came to the battalion he went straight to a Rifle Company where he discovered his love of sniping; a field in which he excelled, finally joining the battalion’s sniper platoon.
He had a passion for Swansea City Football Club, truly following in his father’s wake and we always enjoyed our banter about Swansea City and my love of Cardiff City.
It is with great sadness and heartache felt by all who knew Chris that I write this, but my memories will always be of him laughing and joking with all his comrades and friends who served with him.
Lieutenant Nick Insall, 7 Platoon Commander, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Lance Corporal Harkett was a key player in the company. He was always upbeat and could be relied upon to lift the spirits of the guys. I never saw him upset or under the weather. His morale was infectious and it spread to everyone he met.
As a sniper he was on the ball during our first contact, he remained steadfast in an exposed location on a roof as he engaged enemy forces that were attempting to flank us from a building less than 200 metres away. He was a thoroughly robust soldier and an inspiring leader to the friends he now leaves behind. My thoughts are with his family and especially his wife, Danielle.
Corporal Stuart Thomas, Sniper Platoon Section Commander, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
‘H, H, H Harkett The Legend’: Harkett was a very good mate and a loving husband, who would always go out of his way to help a friend. He really was an inspiration to us all. I will miss him terribly; I don’t think I will ever forget him.
He was a one-off mate who lived life on the edge and I know he died doing what he loved most [sniping]. Here’s to you ‘H’, (try and keep out of trouble up there mate!).
Private Gareth Kenniford, fellow soldier in C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
‘H’ Harkett, well where do I begin? What a soldier and what a friend! I’ve known ‘H’ for all my time in the Army and he was always the life and soul of the party. It’s like he was here with us, to keep us going when times were hard. Always helping and making sure you weren’t feeling down, on operations and in camp.
He will be missed massively by me and all of the 2 Royal Welsh soldiers. My thoughts go out to his wife Danielle and his great family that I had the privilege to meet. Love Always Buddy - Kenny.
Lance Corporal Dan Mazey, Section Commander and fellow sniper, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Chris ‘H’ Harkett was an awesome bloke, always bringing laughter to the whole company. No matter what the situation, he would always have a smile on his face or be pulling a cheeky little jibe.
Everyone thought that his sole job was to bring morale to whoever he was around, wherever he was, whether it was running naked through the Corporals’ Mess, or just entertaining the boys with his impression of a robot on the dance floor.
Working closely with him in Sniper Platoon and also part of a rifle section, I can honestly say that ‘H’ was an extremely good soldier and an even better friend. We will all miss you so much mate, hope you are now in a place where you’re safe. God be with you mucka, love you!
Lance Corporal Jeremy Appiah, Section Commander, 7 Platoon, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
‘H’ Harkett to me was the life and soul of any gathering, at work or socially. A ‘one hundred per cent’ selfless friend, he was always willing to go without so that others didn’t need to.
Always hyperactive, he told me once that Danielle wouldn’t allow him smarties or orange juice! That I believe. He was by far the funniest man I’ve met in the Army and always wanted to be in the thick of the action.
It has been an honour to have known him and he’ll be in my thoughts forever. The breakdancing, ‘Day and Night’, was massive morale to me and the platoon. We had many an argument over the Swansea City - Cardiff City divide! He was a ‘Swan’ through and through.
He didn’t take life too seriously and he was the only man I never saw wound up or stressed; he found good in every situation. All in all, what a bloke! The battalion, Army and the world is worse off without you ‘H, H, H Harkett’. Rest in peace mate, see you soon. You are simply a legend.
Private Martin Ashford, fellow sniper, C Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, said:
Well where do I start? ‘H, H, H Harkett’ was a great soldier and an excellent sniper. He would make a laugh and a joke of any situation and he would always put others before himself.
I enjoyed working with him, no matter if I was wet and cold and feeling down, he would always put a smile on my face. He was the morale in Sniper Platoon and in the rest of the battalion.
My heart goes out to Danielle who he often talked about, his brother Kyle and his parents. Well my friend, you will be sorely missed and memories of you will never be lost. There will never be another like you. Love you mate.
Defence Secretary John Hutton said:
It is clear that Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett was a dedicated and enthusiastic soldier from a family with a strong military tradition. His death is a sad loss to the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
All the brave and professional Service personnel who have given their lives in Afghanistan have done so to counter the serious threat posed to the UK’s national security. They have laid down their lives for their country and we all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. We must ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for international terrorism.