It is with deep sorrow that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard of No 1 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, in Basra, southern Iraq on Tuesday 7 August 2007.
Leading Aircraftman Beard, aged 20, was taking part in a routine foot patrol in the Al Waki district north of the British Base at Basra Air Station. The aim of the patrol was to deter indirect fire attacks on the base and reassure the local population.
Leading Aircraftman Beard sustained a gunshot wound when the patrol came under attack as it moved through Al Waki Market. He was evacuated by helicopter to the field hospital but sadly did not survive.
Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard
Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard was from Rainworth, near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. He leaves behind his loving family and fiancee Nic.
In a statement, the Officer Commanding No 1 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, Squadron Leader Jason Sutton, said:
Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard had just turned 20 and had been with the Squadron since September, when he graduated from basic training with flying colours; an extremely proud day for his whole family but particularly for his sisters Victoria and Rachael to whom he was especially close. Better known to the Squadron as ‘Beardy’, he was outwardly a quiet man but this concealed a wicked sense of humour which would emerge at the most unexpected moments, usually when morale on his Flight needed a lift.
“Strong, fit and an exceptionally gifted infantryman, he had such a bright future and had already set his sights on selection for special forces. I have no doubt whatsoever he would have succeeded in that as he did in all else. He was due to marry upon his return from Iraq and we all feel so deeply for his fiancee, Nic.
My words though, can never be as meaningful as those of his friends on his Flight. Leading Aircraftman Matthew Brown, who underwent basic training with Martin, told me:
‘I first met Beardy on our basic training, where his confidence was obvious. We were busy but he always found time to talk to you and cheer you up. He was always up for going out with the lads and was a very happy person. After he passed out of training he planned to propose to his girlfriend of many years. He was so nervous, even though he pretended not to be, but when she accepted he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. A few weeks later he was proudly giving away his sister at her wedding, showing off his new uniform: but that was him, a poser on the sly. When I found out I was going to be on the same squadron, the same flight, the same fire team and even his battle buddy, I told him that try as I might I would obviously never get rid of him! He was a great soldier with potential to go far and had a future planned in the Regiment. He will never be forgotten and remembered for the good things and times. Per Ardua.’
Leading Aircraftman Craig Richardson added:
‘I sat next to Beardy in basic training and we were all told by the instructor that the person sitting next to you would probably not make it through the tough training. That got me worried because he stood out so much and I thought there’s no way it’s going to be him, but probably me. He was my battle buddy and the first night in our shared room I noticed how loudly and weirdly he snored, and thought it would give our position away in the field. He wasn’t the easiest person to get up for sentry duty, either! Whenever we went out to a club or even just the pub, he was always posing and pouting in his skin-tight t-shirts. When I found out we were joining the same Squadron and Flight I was so happy that we could remain mates. He was a true friend and we will all miss him.’
Sqn Ldr Sutton continued:
I could have asked almost anyone on the Squadron and I know that every man would have a good word to say about Martin. Though he was with us for less than a year, he had made his mark and on this most demanding of operations his were the qualities - loyalty, courage, dependability - that make success in our mission possible. In Martin the RAF Regiment has lost one of its most promising young men who will be terribly missed by us all. As we grieve for him, we here in Iraq can draw some comfort that he fell, weapon in hand, fighting for and alongside his comrades, doing the job he loved so much. For all of us, there can be no greater inspiration to continue to do our duty with renewed determination and fighting spirit, to live up to his legacy and our Regimental motto: Per Ardua - Through Adversity.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Victoria, Rachael, Nic and all his family at this tragic time.
Statement from LAC Beard’s family:
Martin was always incredibly loyal to his family, to his fiance Nic, to those privileged enough to know him as their friend, and to the Royal Air Force Regiment.
He will always be known for his fantastic and vibrant personality, and for his cheeky desire to be the centre of attention.
The news of Martin’s death has come as a huge shock to all of us, and his loss will create a huge gap in all our lives.
To Victoria, the memory of Martin giving her away at her wedding three months ago will always be the proudest moment of her life. A fact that she knows would have instilled equal pride in their mother
Every time Nic thinks of him she always sees a picture of his smiling and happy face. She knows that although their future together is no longer possible, the happiness of the last four years will stay with her and keep her company forever.
We would like thank everyone their kindness and support at this very difficult time, and for the consideration that so many people have shown in the numerous messages we have received.
Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, said:
Leading Aircraftman Beard was a very popular and highly promising young man who was a credit to The Royal Air Force Regiment. His death is tragic and I would like to express my condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. My thoughts are with them and we will do all we can to support them through this difficult time.