It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter and Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar, both from 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday 30 October 2012.
Lieutenant Drummond-Baxter and Lance Corporal Kunwar were based in Checkpoint Prrang in the southern area of the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. Both men were attached to 40 Commando Royal Marines.
On 30 October they were participating in a shura (meeting) with members of the Afghan Uniform Police inside the checkpoint.
On completion of the shura, they were shot and killed by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform who had been attending the meeting.
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter deployed to Afghanistan on 30 September 2012 as Platoon Command of 1 Platoon, A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR), attached to 40 Commando Royal Marines as part of Transition Support Unit Nahr-e Saraj. He was based in Checkpoint Prrang in the southern part of Nahr-e Saraj District, Helmand province. He was on his first operational tour of Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Drummond-Baxter was born in Peterborough on 15 September 1983 and lived in County Durham with his parents. He studied at University College London and gained a BSc degree in Psychology. While at university he was an active member of his local Army Reserves regiment, The Honourable Artillery Company.
He subsequently spent two years working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office including a posting to Japan before joining the British Army. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2010 and commissioned into 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in December 2010.
After Sandhurst, he completed the demanding training to qualify as an Infantry Platoon Commander and further cemented his ability as an outstanding field soldier by passing the arduous Jungle Warfare Course in Brunei to qualify as Jungle Operations Instructor.
Throughout 2011 and 2012 he expertly prepared and led his platoon through the detailed mission-specific training for Operation HERRICK 17 in Afghanistan and attended the three-month Nepali language course in Pokhara, Nepal. In August 2012, he volunteered to spend a further month in Nepal assisting with the Brigade of Gurkhas’ selection course.
Lieutenant Drummond-Baxter was an excellent Platoon Commander whose calm demeanour and ready sense of humour were widely respected by his soldiers and fellow officers. He quickly made his mark as a talented officer who possessed great potential and always put his soldiers first.
He leaves behind his mother, Helen, father, David and sister, Emily.
The family of Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter said:
Edward was fiercely loyal and totally sincere to his parents, sister and many friends who are mourning him today both in the UK and around the world. He loved the Gurkhas and died among friends doing the job that he wanted to do. Helen and David would appreciate being left to grieve in private.
Lieutenant Colonel David Robinson, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Our battalion has lost a character, a true gentleman and an inspirational leader in Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter. Edward or ‘DB’, as he was often known, was one of life’s true personalities; his Gurkha soldiers noticeably responded to his dedication to them but also to his great wit and humour. They would follow him anywhere.
His natural empathy and rapport for his soldiers was evident to everyone; it was never a surprise to find him spending additional time with them, whether seeking to further their professional development or just enjoying their company. The tragedy of his loss is beyond words.
He was also utterly courageous and had already proved himself such a calm and steady leader under fire that his men knew they were in the best of hands. Since joining the regiment in 2010, he had quickly shown that he thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of command and, I know, was incredibly proud to be leading his platoon of Gurkhas. Despite the inherent dangers of the operation, he focused his time and considerable efforts to their welfare and in delivering professional excellence in pursuit of the mission.
He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. His brother officers will always remember him for his style, kindness and sense of fun and he truly endeared himself to all ranks as it was impossible not to be won over by his charm and positive personality. He combined his natural leadership with a mature, dedicated outlook and this was never more apparent than when he prepared his platoon for the challenges of the tour. I could not have been more proud of him.
Edward Drummond-Baxter was a Gurkha officer in the finest tradition and his loss will be deeply felt by all those who had the privilege and honour of knowing him. We know that the deep loss we feel is nothing compared to that of his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Jackson Royal Marines, Commanding Officer 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
Edward was a remarkably talented officer. He readily accepted the challenges placed before him and was so demonstrably proud to be serving in Delhi Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. I saw at first hand the way in which he capably led his men through the training prior to deployment and the way that his Gurkhas responded to his leadership style; they had clearly made an exceptional bond.
He had already proved to be highly effective in the time he was deployed in Afghanistan and will be remembered for his passion and bravery and his commitment to those he so ably led; his reputation as a leader, commander and warrior were known. He loved the men he served alongside and in turn they loved him; leaders like Edward are born to achieve greatness and it is with deep sadness that we find that his life has been cut so tragically short.
It is difficult in these few words to truly reflect how exceptionally talented Edward was, but I will say this: I am proud. I am proud to say that I knew him. I am proud to have served alongside him. I am proud to have had such a highly talented Gurkha officer serve as part of 40 Commando Group Royal Marines. His loss has had a profound effect on all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with his parents and sister at this difficult time. Rest in peace.
Major Dave Pack, Officer Commanding A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Edward was an outstanding officer; trustworthy, honest and exceptionally competent. He saw it as a privilege to command his Gurkhas. He was so proud to deploy with them on operations and in return every one of them felt privileged and lucky to have him as their Platoon Commander. As his Officer Commanding, it was an honour to know him and to work with him. He will be irreplaceable.
His robust and proactive nature combined with his irrepressible cheerfulness made him perfectly suited to the austere conditions in which he was working. Brilliant with the Afghan locals and fearless on patrol, he operated with a calm confidence that gave me and his men utter faith in him as a man and as a leader. He was inspirational. Everyone who knew him should be incredibly proud of him. He was a shining example of what a Gurkha officer should be; professional, brave and selfless.
Captain Shuresh Kumar Thapa, Second in Command A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
I first came into contact with Edward ten months ago when I arrived as Second in Command of Delhi Company. He first struck me with his professionalism and positive approach to his job as Platoon Commander 1 Platoon. He was very proud to be an officer in 1RGR and Delhi Company, a fact that showed in his work and life in Shorncliffe (Kent).
He was a true hero to me and for all of Delhi Company. He was a great character and great commander, a very calm and big-hearted man who always put his boys first and never tired doing the job he loved. He welcomed any tasks and always said ‘Huncha Saheb’ (‘Yes, Sir’ ).
He was the only commander who never had any negative comments and always highlighted the positive about his boys who he was extremely proud to lead and serve with. He always entertained us during our conference calls by saying ‘Roger’ and ‘out’ together at the end of acknowledgement.
His well-spoken tones added a touch of class to the conference call and on the Company net. From now on there is no one here to say to me ‘Huncha Saheb’ and make me laugh during the Delhi Company conference call. I would like to extend my thoughts and prayers to his family.
Captain Ryan Davies, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Edward Drummond-Baxter was a good friend. He was a hugely popular member of the Officers’ Mess and his open, warm and personable nature ensured that those that knew him knew him well. He had a real lust for life, would always grasp opportunities for adventure and had an uncanny ability to liven up any social event. He was a guy who would always lend a caring ear and who you could simply sit down and have a heart to heart with.
He will be immeasurably missed by all those in the Royal Gurkha Rifles, both officers and soldiers alike. Spending time with him recently in Nepal, it was clear that his love for Gurkha soldiers underpinned all that he did in his job. Known as ‘DB Saheb’ to his Platoon; they will feel his loss considerably, but are far better for having known him, as are the rest of us. He was a selfless and enigmatic commander, a first rate soldier and a true gentleman.
Captain Jiwan Pun, A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter was a cheerful, engaging and professional man who was universally popular and highly capable in all he did. He was known as ‘DB Saheb’; one of the finest officers who I have ever served with.
I always will remember my days with DB Saheb; particularly my last visit to CP Prrang on 29 October 2012, where we were warmly welcome saying ‘Oh Jiwan saheb, what a pleasant surprise, you are also here with us’; Major Pack (Officer Commanding Delhi Coy) replied saying ‘Yeah, this is A team for you Ed’.
We then had fresh fruit and water together chatting about how he was getting on. On the way back to Patrol Base 2, I kept thinking ‘why I did not give him a hug?’ as he saw me off by hand-shaking three times in the CP Prrang.
I truly sense that he wanted to lead his men and utilise his considerable experience and very likeable character to guide them through the next six months and leave Afghanistan a better country.
DB Saheb’s cutting, self-deprecating wit, easy going manner and endearing personality will never be forgotten by all those who had the privilege and pleasure to have met and worked with him.
His calm and reassuring voice did and will always echo on our ears. Our thoughts and prayers are with all his family and friends. He fell doing the job he loved, surrounded by those who loved him. He will never be forgotten.
Captain Alex Brown, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Edward was the consummate gentleman. We, his brother-officers in the Mess, all loved him for his sense of humour, easy going manner, and desire to have fun. But it was his charm, kindness, and consideration that set him apart from us. He was in many respects a throwback to another era, an English gentleman abroad.
He had spent time in Japan prior to joining the Battalion and loved Asia, and so was very excited about going out to Brunei with us next summer, linen suit and all. Because he was slightly older he brought a calmness and maturity to his manner that the soldiers responded to and respected, and which gave him the gravitas to be an excellent commander. My heart goes out to his family because today we lost one of the best.
Corporal Hirabahadur Phagami, 1 Platoon, A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Throughout my career, Lieutenant DB Saheb was one of the best platoon commanders. He was always calm and caring to all of us. Always a smile on his face no matter how difficult the task was. Best leader I have ever met and worked with. May his soul rest in peace. I will forever remember him. May God bless his family.
Lance Corporal Roshan Gurung, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Lieutenant DB Saheb was a very kind hearted and generous gentleman. It was a great honour to serve with a Platoon Commander like him. May his soul rest in peace in heaven, we will miss him and he will always be in our hearts.
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar deployed to Afghanistan on 3 October 2012 as a Sniper Section Commander in the acting rank of Lance Corporal. He was serving with A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, attached to 40 Commando Royal Marines as part of Transition Support Unit Nahr-e Saraj. He was based in Checkpoint Prrang in the southern part of Nahr-e Saraj District, Helmand province. He was on his third operational tour of Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Siddhanta was born on 19 June 1984 in Pokhara, Nepal, where he lived with his mother and father. He passed the arduous selection for the Brigade of Gurkhas on 17 December 2004 and having completed his year-long infantry training joined 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in October 2005.
Very soon after his arrival in 1 RGR he deployed with the Battalion to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2005-2006 as part of the European Union Force in support of the Bosnian Government. Lance Corporal Siddhanta then moved with 1 RGR to Brunei where he conducted extensive jungle training and qualified as a sniper in 2007.
In late 2007 and into 2008 he deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 7 where he served in Garmsir in southern Helmand Province. In 2009 he successfully passed a Junior NCO selection course and in 2010 returned to Afghanistan with 1 RGR on Operation HERRICK 12 to the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand province. It was during this tour more than ever that his calm good humour, sharp mind and huge operational experience became a touchstone for his fellow soldiers.
LCpl Siddhanta Kunwar was an outstanding soldier and a true Gurkha. He displayed the calmness of mind, cheerfulness in adversity and loyalty throughout his many operational tours - qualities that the Brigade of Gurkhas hold dear. He served with many of the Companies within the Battalion and his loss will be deeply felt throughout 1 RGR.
He leaves his father, Shyam Kumar Kunwar, stepmother, Chhali Devi Kunwar, his four sisters, Shova, Shyandya, Smita and Sardha Kunwar, and his elder brother, Bhupendra Kunwar.
The family of Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar said:
We are deeply shocked, disheartened and in disbelief that Siddhanta is no longer with us But we shall treasure all the good things he did. He enjoyed immensely of his profession and was fully committed towards it. He has made us proud. The whole family misses him dearly.
Lieutenant Colonel David Robinson. Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurhka Rifles, said:
Siddhanta Kunwar was a great character and a tough, professional Gurkha soldier with a proven and impressive operational record. Strong and highly experienced, he stood out from the crowd not only as a highly capable sniper but also for his smile and sense of fun, whatever the situation he found himself in.
On this, his third tour of Afghanistan, he knew the dangers and understood better than most what it meant to do his job at the toughest end of soldiering. As such he was a role model for the younger soldiers around him. They, in turn, responded greatly to his guidance and experience but also to his caring nature. Away from operations, he loved his sport and was a great team player; he loved nothing more than having fun with his mates on the sports field.
Siddhanta was a proud soldier and was immensely proud to be a Gurkha. He was one of the cornerstones of the Sniper Platoon where he was part of a close-knit team who were justifiably confident in their ability. He would have done anything to support his comrades and friends around him; I know they will miss him deeply.
The Regiment has lost a fine young man who epitomised all that makes the Gurkhas so special. Living always so far from home, Gurkha units are particularly close-knit and the loss of Lance Corporal Siddhanta is a bitter blow, felt keenly by all ranks and families of 1RGR. We will mourn his tragic passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family in Nepal and friends at this terrible time.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Jackson Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar epitomised everything that a Gurkha should be; he was dedicated, professional and brave. This was his third deployment to Afghanistan and he was continuing to excel in everything that he did, but especially in his role as a sniper, where his fieldcraft skills were beyond reproach. It is clear that he thrived on the challenges that operations bring and enjoyed using the skills that he worked so hard to gain; he was never found wanting. He demonstrated the highest qualities of a Gurkha soldier and his legacy lives on in Delhi Company.
It is a huge privilege for me personally to command a Company of Gurkhas and to have known Lance Corporal Siddhanta, however briefly. We took him, and have taken Delhi Company, into the Commando family as one of our own. His loss will therefore not only be felt by the Brigade of Gurkhas and Delhi Company but also by everyone serving within 40 Commando Group Royal Marines. His sacrifice will never be forgotten and he will always be in our thoughts.
My thoughts and prayers go to his friends and family as they struggle to come to terms with his loss. I offer you small comfort in knowing that Siddhanta died in the company of those who loved him for everything he was and everything that he did. My thoughts are with them at this exceptionally difficult time.
Major Dave Pack, Officer Commanding A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Lance Corporal Siddhanta was an integral part of the Sniper Platoon within Support (Medicina) Company and of A (Delhi) Company. He was an impeccable soldier with tremendous potential, who had already shown himself to be a leader of men. He excelled in his role as a sniper and as a junior commander. As a sniper he was out of the top draw; fit, robust and with outstanding marksmanship skills. As a NCO he was a shining example to the junior riflemen in his check point; always leading by example and consummately professional in all he did. He was the epitome of a Gurkha soldier.
Lance Corporal Siddhanta was not only a talented soldier, but an incredibly likeable man. Everything about him was good: his cheerfulness, his enthusiasm, his attitude. His family, friends and colleagues should be incredibly proud of him. It was a privilege to know him and to have him fighting alongside me.
I and all members of A (Delhi) Company are devastated; the pain and emptiness is indescribable. But this is nothing compared to the grief his family will be experiencing and our thoughts and prayers are with them. Their son will never be forgotten; he was a special man who made an indelible mark on everyone who knew him.
Major Dhyan Prasad Rai, Gurkha Major, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
The untimely death of Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar is extremely sad news for us in The Royal Gurkha Rifles and the wider Gurkha family. Having been a sniper since 2008, Siddhanta was of the best in the battalion. He was a supremely competent soldier who excelled in marksmanship and field-craft - the essence of our trade. He had proven himself time and again on operations. This was his third operational tour in Afghanistan. Siddhanta was also a fine sportsman whose natural ability at basketball and volleyball made him a fixture in the various competitions held regularly in battalion.
His example is exactly in line with the best traditions of nigh on 200 years of dedicated Gurkha soldiering in the service of the United Kingdom. He has made us all extremely proud to have served alongside him.
As he is a loss to us, so he is a terrible loss to his family in Nepal. Our thoughts at this time are with them who will bear this sad news the heaviest of all.
Major Alex Biggs, Officer Commanding Support Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Lance Corporal Siddhanta was an integral part of the Sniper Platoon within Support (Medicina) Company. An impeccable soldier of much potential, he had set an excellent foundation for his future career. An experienced sniper who has excelled in the harsh environment of Afghanistan, he was always forward leaning and utterly reliable.
Very much a team player he was always keen to help and join in at both work and play. A keen sportsman he would always represent the Company whenever the opportunity arose. As a person Lance Corporal Siddhanta was a gentleman. Warm, friendly, emphatically polite and outgoing he was an integral part of both company and battalion. A man of quiet wit and good sense of humour he was very much part of the RGR family and will be sorely missed.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Bishnu Thapa, Officer Commanding Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Siddhanta was a very loyal, professional, fantastic, engaging and brave Gurkha soldier. He was popular and highly capable in his profession and was warm, witty, clever and kind. He was one of the finest snipers in the platoon. He was the veteran of HERRICK 7 and 12 and was clear in his motivation for returning on HERRICK 17.
I am stunned by his unexpected passing. He was an immensely proud soldier. He epitomised the very best qualities expected from a true Gurkha soldier. He will be sorely missed by all within the platoon and his memory will endure in our hearts.
Our prayer and thoughts go out to his family and relatives. May Goddess Durga give strengths to overcome at this very difficult time.
Rifleman Tuljung Gurung, Support Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurhka Rifles, said:
Everyone knows that we have to leave this world, leaving everything behind. Today we lost one of our close friends, Siddhanta Kunwar. It is a sad day for all of us. It’s too hard to explain in just a few sentences how special he was. He was one of the great ‘numberi’ (cohort of recruits) from my intake. He was very helpful to everyone no matter how hard the work was. He stood as a hero among us and inspired people by his performance.
He had the ability to make people take him into their hearts in a short period of time. We came to Support Company together which gave me more opportunity to see how good he was. Looking to him I’m so proud to be one of his numberi and also so sad. We’ll miss him a lot, may his soul get peace in heaven.
Rifleman Milan Rai, Delhi Coy, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurhka Rifles, said:
Lance Corporal Siddhanta was my commander. I used to call him ‘Sid Dai’, which means he was like my elder brother. He was very keen, loyal and committed to his work as well an energetic and very disciplined soldier. He never shied away from any challenge and was caring and sharing with everyone.
Wherever you are, Sid Dai, stay safe. I am going to miss you. You will always remain in our hearts and memories.
Rifleman Rem Bahadur Gurung, 1 Platoon, A (Delhi) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurhka Rifles, said:
Lance Corporal Siddhanta Guruji was a great person. He was like a brother to me. He was an always cheerful person. He was one of the best Snipers. I will miss him so badly.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter and Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar. They have made the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving in Afghanistan on an operation which is vital to our national security. My thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of both of these brave men at this most difficult time.