Operations in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith from the Corps of Royal Engineers was killed in Afghanistan on Friday 10 August 2012.

Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith (All rights reserved.)
Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith (All rights reserved.)

Lance Corporal Smith was part of a troop that had been tasked to build a new checkpoint next to the Nahr-e Bughra canal in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province when he was hit by small arms fire. He received immediate first aid before being evacuated by helicopter but, despite all efforts to save him, he sadly died of his wounds.

Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith

Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith was born on 12 March 1986 in Hong Kong. He grew up in Aldershot, going to school in the local area and playing his favourite sport, football, for Hale Football Club. He enlisted in January 2003 and joined the Corps of Royal Engineers in September of the same year. He quickly progressed, and successfully completed a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer cadre in July 2008, promoting three months later.

He continued his passion for football throughout his career. He played numerous times for 26 Engineer Regiment and was part of the team that won the Corps Championship, the Blythe Cup, in 2011. He was a dedicated team member, immensely popular and extremely talented.

Lance Corporal Smith deployed to Afghanistan on 16 March 2012 with 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment. He was based in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province where he supported 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment as a section second-in-command, crane operator and driver.

Since arriving, he had been heavily involved with the transition to Afghan-led security, using his specialist skills to assist in the closure and drawdown of International Security Assistance Force bases. As a crane operator he was involved in the construction of a new bridge, allowing the local population of Nad ‘Ali to cross the Nahr-e Bughra canal. In this task, as with everything, he was the epitome of professionalism.

Lance Corporal Smith had been a member of 26 Engineer Regiment for nearly three years. In his time in the regiment his personality had touched a lot of people. He will be justly remembered as one of the most popular, professional and devoted soldiers by anyone who was lucky enough to work with him. His irrepressible spirit, even in the toughest of situations, was legendary and will be sorely missed by the whole regiment.

Above everything else, Lance Corporal Smith was devoted to his family. He talked about them endlessly. He leaves behind his father Kenneth, mother Caroline, fiancée Laura, brother Bradley and four children, Lainie, Ella, Tilli and Jai (aged between one and seven).

Lance Corporal Smith’s mother, Caroline Smith, paid the following tribute:

A loving father to four beautiful children, who will be dearly missed by his fiancée, mother, father, family and friends. Our Hero, RIP.

Lieutenant Colonel John Ridge, Commanding Officer, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Smith embodied everything that is great about the Corps of Royal Engineers. He was incredibly hardworking, completely selfless and utterly professional. Killed whilst building a vital checkpoint on the Nahr-e Bughra canal, he died at the centre of the task, leading, as always, from the front.

I last saw Lance Corporal Smith a few weeks ago. He briefed me on what his team were up to, and on the tasks that they had still to do before the end of the tour. He was clearly loving the job, and the experience of leading on operations. After four months of hard physical work, I expected to find his soldiers tired and looking forward to getting home. Instead, they were in high spirits and focused on what jobs were coming up next. There could be no better proof of his outstanding leadership.

Lance Corporal Smith joined the Corps of Royal Engineers [CRE] in 2003, and he was posted to 26 Engineer Regiment in January 2010. Tremendously proud to be a sapper, he reportedly woke his tent mates to a recording or rendition of ‘Hurrah for the CRE’, the Corps song, most mornings. He loved teaching junior soldiers and, as one of our flyers, we were preparing him for a posting to a Training Regiment, where I am certain he would have been in his element.

We have all been terribly shocked by his death, particularly his mates from 6 Troop. They are a tight-knit team, and he was a key player, whether making the early morning brews or raising a smile when the endless building of patrol base walls finally started eating into morale.

After Lance Corporal Smith had been shot, and his section had evacuated him to medical assistance, they went straight back to site and finished the job that he had started. After being informed of his death, they prepared to build the next checkpoint. Not through a lack of feeling, but because this is exactly what he would have wanted them to do. This is how we in the Engineer Group will honour his memory.

Our loss as friends and colleagues is nothing compared to that felt by his family, particularly his fiancée Laura and their four children. He was devoted to all of them, and they will be in our thoughts and prayers during this dreadful period.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aston, Commanding Officer, Transition Support Unit Nad ‘Ali, said:

Lance Corporal Smith was a standout character: engaging, charismatic, full of life and above all else a proud sapper and committed family man. In the Nad ‘Ali Transition Support Unit of nearly 1,350 soldiers he was a shining light to all who knew him. Within his troop he was always the first to offer an opinion and would do so with a charming confidence that made him instantly likeable.

An all-round decent man, you could not help but be engaged by his banter, intellect and work ethic. It was evident that he was a huge presence amongst his friends who admired his self-belief, great sense of humour and humble approach.

In the short period I knew him, I was struck by his energy and love of soldiering which was only surpassed by the love he held for his fiancée and children whom he often talked about.

A character like Lance Corporal Smith is impossible to replace - he was one of a kind. His loss will be felt by all in the battle group, none more so than his friends in 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron. Our thoughts are with his fiancée and family during this, the most difficult of times.

Major Chris Ankers, Officer Commanding 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Matthew Smith was a truly outstanding soldier. Full of drive, enthusiasm and wit, he was extremely well liked throughout the regiment. I still have the most recent entry in my notes which was to commend him for his excellent briefing, delivered in a professional and relaxed manner, to the Commanding Officer and Regimental Sergeant Major during one of their visits. I am devastated to not be able to pass on my praise, which I’m sure he would have taken in his usual calm manner with a wry smile.

I first met Lance Corporal Smith in September 2011 at the start of Mission Specific Training for Operation HERRICK 16. I took an immediate liking to him; he had the charisma to always step forward and brief confidently about how his section were going to complete whatever was asked of them, but then the ability to achieve it as well.

He showed the professionalism and character needed for a long career within the Royal Engineers and, when asked, was always confident enough to say his ambition was to one day be a Regimental Sergeant Major. It is a real regret that I will not get to see him promoting through the ranks towards his goal, leaving a lasting positive impression on all those he would meet.

A strong leader who took all challenges in his stride, Lance Corporal Smith died whilst working to make a difference in Afghanistan, constructing a checkpoint to ensure long term security in Nad ‘Ali and a better life for the Afghan people. Confident, dependable and extremely capable, he thoroughly understood and excelled in his role in Afghanistan.

I am proud to have commanded such an honest and professional soldier and to have met such a decent man. He took great pride in his work and inspired those around him, a true leader of men. My thoughts are with his family and friends during this extremely difficult time. Lance Corporal Smith will be sorely missed.

Captain ‘Dog’ Barclay, Echelon Commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I have had the honour to know Lance Corporal Smith for the last six years. In this time, I have been his Troop Commander and Echelon Commander. On the first day I met him, I knew that I had met a future star of the Corps. His infectious humour and personality along with his totally professional ethos made him one of the very best Junior Non-Commissioned Officers that I have ever had the privilege to know and call a friend. His selfless commitment to his family and his troop made him stand out from the crowd.

In barracks almost every Monday morning ‘Smudge’ would walk into my office and slowly dissect the tactics of his beloved West Ham United from the weekend’s game; he thought of himself as a leading pundit like Alan Hansen but more often he sounded like Alf Garnett. These discussions would sometimes last over an hour but would always end with him talking about his fiancée, Laura, and their children.

Smudge, my thoughts go out to your family at this sad time. The Corps has lost an outstanding soldier and a great friend but they, his family, have lost a perfect father. Rest in peace my friend.

Captain Jen Kehoe, 6 Troop Commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

One of the hardest working and happiest men in the troop, Lance Corporal Smith was a thoroughly likeable, genuine person and someone you couldn’t help but want to be around. Having transferred into the troop from 8 Armoured Engineer Squadron, he was well-known and liked throughout the regiment. From his first day, he made an impression as a confident, cheerful character.

Even a cold, wet day of tabbing on Salisbury Plain would not dampen his spirits; he always kept the troop’s morale high with his infectious sense of humour. The troop always recalls a night with seven of them sleeping in a tiny room during a training exercise. He jumped up out of his sleeping bag to serenade everyone with cries of ‘Reveille, Reveille, everyone up for Reveille - I love mornings!’ He also clearly loved his family very much, he talked about them constantly and they were never far from his thoughts.

Lance Corporal Smith took immense pride in his work and excelled in everything he did; he was one of the most professional soldiers I have ever had the privilege to command. A knowledgeable combat engineer and an expert instructor, he was clearly dedicated to the Corps, which earned him the fitting nickname of ‘Smudge RE’. His death will leave a huge gap in a very close-knit troop that will be impossible to fill. It is a sad, sad day for everyone whose lives have been brightened by knowing Lance Corporal Smith RE.

Staff Sergeant Paddy McDermott, 6 Troop, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I first met Smudge last September; with his tall stature and tiny beret (that I’m sure he’d had since training), straight away I noticed he was a natural leader and one of the guys I would turn to if I needed a job doing quickly and correctly. His character made him stand out from the crowd. When I asked him once what his name was, he said ‘Lance Corporal Smith RE, bit of a ‘ledge’, done a bit, I’m surprised you haven’t heard of me’.

Smudge was someone who I would always turn to for advice when I needed to know what goes on in the Royal Engineer motorised transport world as he was the subject matter expert on everything to do with his trade. All the sappers looked up to him as an inspiration, and his peers would believe every word he said (even though sometimes it meant he had them hook, line and sinker).

Lance Corporal Smith’s professionalism was unquestionable and his dedication to his work outstanding. The only thing he put in front of work was his family and friends. We sat down and spoke about our partners and children. From the moment he woke up in the morning to the second when he closed his eyes at night he was happy about life. He was one of the cogs that kept morale high. When he was tired he would say ‘Staff, I feel as old as you look!’ It has been a privilege and honour to have served with ‘Lance Corporal Smith RE, a total ledge and done more than his bit’.

Corporal Matt Copping, 6 Troop Section Commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I hadn’t known Lance Corporal ‘Smudge’ Smith very long, maybe only a year. In that year I shared some great times with him. No matter how down the section or I became, Smudge was always there to make light of any situation.

Lance Corporal Smith is the only person I have met who gave himself a nickname and got it to stick: ‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’. Tour T-shirt printing always cost more due to Smudge and his nickname. At the Corporals’ Mess function, my partner Rachel had the best introduction to Smudge. He just walked up to her and informed her that he was ‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’. Just the normal Smudge at work.

Even though Smudge was known as a character throughout the troop, the squadron and the regiment, he was also known as a great soldier. With Lance Corporal Smith as my second-in-command my job was easy. Professional at all times, he was always smart as a carrot and twice as crunchy. Smudge would be my choice of second-in-command every time; in his words, he was a ‘do-er’. He got things done.

Lance Corporal Smith leaves behind three beautiful girls and a young boy. He was always proud of his children and showed me new pictures as soon as he got them. Smudge also leaves behind his fiancée Laura, whom he adored. He loved his family with all his heart and couldn’t wait for his Rest and Recuperation leave, giving me a daily countdown.

Lance Corporal Smith’s family have lost a major part of their life and my thoughts are constantly with them. I was proud to have known and worked with Smudge; it was a privilege. Not only have I lost a great colleague, but a great mate. I’ll end this the way I think Smudge would have wanted: Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit, you’ve done your bit. Rest easy mate, out.

Corporal Al MacDonald, Section Commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

The first time I met Lance Corporal Smith, he introduced himself as ‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’. From this point on I knew he was going to be a real character and someone everyone wanted to be around.

Without question, Smudge RE was the most popular soldier in the squadron. His ability to lift morale even in the most difficult times led to the days passing quickly on tour and everyone wanting to work with him. It is impossible to forget his wicked sense of humour and the conversations I had with him on his family, who he truly adored. Laura and his children were his life and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

His massive obsession with West Ham Football Club could talk a glass eye to sleep and his support for the club was seen all over his bed space. A passion I shared with him was the card game Euchre. We spent hours playing, never getting bored of his constant banter and jokes. He strived to be the most steadfast member of the troop, ensuring no matter how tough things got, he would take it in his stride.

Smudge will be sorely missed as an outstanding soldier, father and friend.

Corporal Rob Taylor, Section Commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Smudge RE is one of the best men I have ever met. He was the most popular man in the squadron and probably the regiment. He was pure morale, able to make everybody around him happy. He saw the bright side to everything and dragged the rest of us along with him into his sunny world. He never stopped talking about his fiancée and kids, and was so proud and happy about his family. My thoughts and prayers go out to his fiancée Laura and their four kids Lainie, Tilli, Ella and Jai.

His well known catchphrase of ‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’; ‘bit of a ledge’ - he was a legend to all that knew him whether because of his football skills or through one of his many postings or deployments; ‘done a bit’ - he had done a bit, with 10 years’ experience over a variety of jobs within the Corps.

It reflected his experience and standing with everybody who knew him. If you ever needed help with something work-wise or life in general, he was always the person to go to. His advice and big heart made him easy to approach and was constantly the link between his juniors and seniors; he was a true leader of men.

He is one of the most professional soldiers and proud sappers I have had the honour of knowing. He would always be the first person I would ask for on any task. His knowledge, willingness to learn and morale were a constant reassurance. I was looking forward to bumping into him throughout my time in the Royal Engineers. He has left a massive hole in the Corps that will never be filled.

I am personally gutted and heartbroken that I will never see, hear or laugh with him ever again. My life will be a lot greyer without his tuneful renditions of ‘Hurrah for the CRE’ and ‘Little White Bull’, a song he used to play to us in the mornings, a favourite of his kids. Once a Sapper, always a Sapper. Rest in Peace my friend.

Lance Corporal Josh Small, Section Second-in-Command, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

When someone dies, everyone always says what an amazing bloke they were but Smudge really was the nicest, and an amazing bloke. He was the backbone of the troop’s morale. I’ll always remember my birthday when Smudge had the whole troop up at 0500hrs so we could finish the task and get back to watch West Ham in the play-off final, and then the elation when West Ham won! A true friend and top bloke, my thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be sorely missed by all.

Lance Corporal Kev Engstrom, Section Second-in-Command, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Smith (bit of a ledge - done a bit - Smudge RE). The title suited him well and he made sure everyone knew it. I first met Smudge on a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer cadre in 2007. In fact he was the first person I met and the only person I could hear. He stated he was ‘a bit of a ledge’ and, when the final exercise was upon us, he proved he was (a bit) as he completed the final log run with an injured knee and only two of them carrying the log. We became friends and were over the moon when our paths crossed again in 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, The Mighty 6 Troop.

He was loved by the troop, the squadron and the regiment. A very big character within the troop, he easily lifted morale with his sense of humour. He was someone you always wanted to be around - during tasks, downtime and away from work. He always shared stories about his family, which were his pride and joy. He will be greatly missed and leaves a massive empty space in our troop. Loved by everyone who knew him; a one-in-a-million colleague, soldier, dad and friend.

‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’, you will be sorely missed.

Lance Corporal Scott Charles, Section Second-in-Command, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I’ve known Smudge RE for eight months and as soon as we met our friendship hit off. This could be due to the fact he was hardworking, witty and loved to graft or because he had ‘done a bit’ and was a ‘bit of a ledge’.

He was the keenest bloke I had ever met and if he heard of a new bit of kit that could make him look ‘ally’ it would be his by the next morning. Smudge was a dedicated West Ham fan and his love for ‘The Hammers’ was unexplainable.

I am truly gutted to know that I will never see that massive grin first thing in the morning and will never have to wake up to his ‘freshen up for reveille’ song. My thoughts are with his fiancée Laura and his four children. You will be missed Smudge RE and you definitely were ‘a ledge’.

Sapper Gareth Jenkins, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I haven’t known Smudge very long, being new to the troop, but from the first time I met him I could see that he was larger than life and the heart and soul of the troop. I will never forget building a sangar with him on our first checkpoint upgrade. He managed somehow to get the local children to learn his name so that every one of them would be asking for ‘Smudge RE’ and asking whether he had the ball he said he’d give them. As always, he delivered and somehow he acquired a ball for them. Even more impressively, he acquired five bottles of cold orangeade for the lads by trading a few broken pickets.

As always, he knew how to keep up the morale of the lads and I’ll never forget the cool refreshing taste of that orangeade. I will always remember Smudge RE as one of our fearless leaders who always looked out for the lads, who loved his family, and for his love of West Ham United. He was and still is ‘a bit of a ledge’ and I will always think of him when I check the football scores and West Ham come up. Rest in peace my friend.

Lance Corporal Smith or as we knew him, Smudge RE, was a good, honest, hardworking, decent bloke. Someone I looked up to and a bit of a legend. Sapper Paul Taylor

Sapper Paul Taylor, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Smith or as we knew him, Smudge RE, was a good, honest, hardworking, decent bloke. Someone I looked up to and a bit of a legend. RE? Why? Because he lived for the Army and the Royal Engineers. One of the keenest people I’ve met. He will be missed by all and never forgotten.

My thoughts go out to his family and kids, who he talked about all the time. Things won’t be the same without him. When we were down he would pick us up with his funny jokes and the way he seemed to know everything. Always keen on football, always striving to get the best out of himself and others. Smudge, we miss you.

Sapper Robbie Lloyd, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Smudge RE was known throughout the Corps as ‘a bit of a ledge’. He was one of the nicest people I ever met and always there to bring morale up in dark times. A true hero in my eyes, always the first to volunteer and he loved the work he did. My thoughts are with his friends and family back home. He will be deeply missed by everyone.

Sapper Kyle Collins, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

A true gentleman and an amazing character. Always the first to crack a joke, it was a privilege to be in his presence. He will be sorely missed by all and my thoughts are with his family and friends at home.

Sapper Chris Fox, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Everyone said it, but he really was ‘Smudge RE - bit of a ledge - done a bit’, absolutely top bloke and a really professional soldier. He always kept morale high and whenever you felt down he would cheer you up. He loved the banter, which always made me laugh. He was one of the funniest blokes I have ever met. He was brilliant at his job and I learnt a lot from him over the tour.

Sapper Sam Goodman, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Smith was one of the lads. My biggest memory of him is when I had a two-hour stag to do, which can be quite boring. He came and sat with me for the whole of it and we talked about football. Mainly about West Ham. It was the quickest two hours of my life, but the only stag I can remember!

Sapper Craig Simpson, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

No matter what the situation, Smudge RE was a good, decent bloke who put his lads first. He decided to quit smoking once the 200 he had left ran out, so he started giving them out to the lads to get rid of them quicker. It lasted all of two hours before he started again and bought a load more!

Sapper Jack Hawksley, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

Lance Corporal Smith, best known as ‘Smudge RE’, was a legend. He always gave a helping hand when you needed it and even when times were bad he would keep everyone’s morale high by making us all laugh. Rest in peace Smudge RE, we are all going to miss you. You will always be in our hearts.

Sapper Thomas Brown, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I knew Smudge to be one of the nicest blokes I have ever met; he was always happy. I respected him as he was a prominent character in the squadron. He will be sadly missed and never forgotten. My heart goes out to his family.

Sapper Ben Davies, Section Sapper, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said:

I got to know Smudge when he was operating the crane on our build of the logistic support bridge at Patrol Base Folad. He brought a lot of morale to the lads and was always a joker. As both of us were massive football fans we always had a lot to talk about while he was attached to the troop. He didn’t believe Andy Carroll would be taking West Ham forward so we made a bet on whether Swansea would finish above West Ham. So for the whole season I’ll be on edge, but always thinking of Smudge RE.

Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said:

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lance Corporal Matthew Smith. By all accounts he was a committed and professional soldier who served his country with bravery and courage. His loss will be felt keenly by all. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and my thoughts are with them.