It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Lieutenant Paul Mervis from 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 RIFLES) was killed as a result of an explosion during a deliberate operation near Sangin, northern Helmand province, Afghanistan, on the morning of 12 June 2009.
Lieutenant Paul Mervis, born on 30 September 1981, grew up in London and was educated at King’s College Wimbledon. He then spent a gap year in China and Israel before going on to study philosophy at University College London.
Summer holidays were invariably spent in Africa in the Namibian bush. Post graduation, his passion for geo-politics and travel led him into the world of journalism where he was involved with ‘The Week’ and ‘The Spectator’. But it wasn’t long before his thirst for adventure drew him into the British Army.
Lt Mervis was one of the very first officers to commission into the newly formed RIFLES in April 2007. After the testing Platoon Commanders’ Course at Brecon, he was posted to 2 RIFLES as the Platoon Commander of 10 Platoon and he was straight into the mix.
He led his platoon with distinction on a demanding TESEX (Tactical Electronic Simulation Exercise) before deploying with the Battle Group to Kosovo, where he thrived on his first operational tour. He was in his element in the diversity of that place and it soon showed that he was an operational soldier who relished overseas deployments.
2 RIFLES then entered an intensive period of pre-deployment training for HERRICK 10 (Afghanistan) and, for Lt Mervis, the operation could not come soon enough. Lt Mervis’ unique character and leadership forged a very special platoon.
Every exercise and training serial, whether platoon, company or battalion, was tackled with the vigour, thoroughness and professionalism of someone who cared passionately about his Riflemen and who was prepared to strain every sinew in preparing for the demands of operations in Helmand. During his first two months of the tour, based out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gibraltar as part of Battle Group (North), Lt Mervis was at the forefront of all his company’s operations.
He fought hard and led his platoon through tragic times; when Rifleman Thatcher was killed in action he was a rock to those he commanded. It was typical of the man that he led from the front in one of Afghanistan’s most demanding and dangerous districts. Tragically, Lieutenant Paul Mervis was killed whilst on a foot patrol by an explosion north of FOB Gibraltar on 12 June 2009.
Lt Mervis’ family, Jonathan and Margaret, Hannah and Jack Mervis, said:
Paul was a wonderful, loving son, brother and friend - generous and thoughtful, with an infectious sense of fun. Paul was killed doing the job he chose and loved. He was passionately committed to his men - far beyond mere duty. He had read widely about Afghanistan, and went with a genuine desire to help bring enough stability there to enable reconstruction to follow.
Commanding Officer 2 RIFLES Battle Group, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, said:
Lieutenant Paul Mervis was utterly irrepressible. There was no more committed officer in The Rifles and the Riflemen adored being under his command.
He was one of those leaders who, out here, was always first onto the objective. He had taken the fight to the enemy at every turn and it had not been without a cost - Rifleman Thatcher was in his platoon and his beloved 10 Platoon had already had two other Riflemen wounded in action, including his Platoon Serjeant.
It was a cost which hurt him to the core but it did not deter him. He adored platoon command and the richness of its challenge and there was nothing he would not do for one of his Riflemen. In the mess, most of us could not keep up with him.
He was always the first to grab the wine list in a restaurant, opining that only he knew the best clarets. He was the officer who sent my children the highest on the trampoline and they loved him for it.
But Paul was not just a fun-lover, he was full of enquiry and was a deep thinker - about soldiering and about life. Out here, he had established a model relationship with the Afghan National Army in his Forward Operating Base - he had an enviable ability to encourage, cajole, inspire and motivate them.
He read more about Afghanistan than anyone as we prepared for this tour and his empathy for the people of this fascinating country was exemplary. He had been due to move on soon to train recruit Riflemen back in Catterick which he would have done brilliantly but it is a measure of the man and his passion for those he commanded that, since our arrival here, he had, on every occasion we met, asked if he could stay on. He was already planning to return to Afghanistan next year.
His mother and father were so proud of him and all that he had selflessly achieved and our thoughts and prayers must be with them and Paul’s brother and sister at this unimaginably awful time. But this will be some solace - their son, Paul, died in command, at the front of his platoon, leading it on operations fighting in a just cause for the benefit of impoverished Afghans.
He would want nothing more than for us to get back up onto the ramparts, with the bugle sounding, to let the enemy know that we are coming back.
Officer Commanding C Company, Major Alastair Field, said:
Paul Mervis was a one in a trillion. I have never met a more passionate and engaging young officer in my twelve years in the Army.
His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. You knew when ‘Merv’ was out of the mess when the periodicals and Amazon parcels he had ordered piled up on the post table!
I could not have wanted more of him as a Platoon Commander - less perhaps the odd ironed shirt. Full-on, intelligently so, he was caring and understanding in the best way. He had a sharp intellect and immediately got the bigger picture faster than most of us and did so without a trace of arrogance.
He also had that ingredient of plain old presence and leadership which only a few genuinely possess. The reputation Paul had personally engineered for his platoon was enviable in the battalion.
No one signed off under his command - a true testament to the high morale he had created. We could all see his longer term potential, both on the staff and later in command. Sadly his raw talent will not have the chance to flourish. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved parents and his brother and his sister.
Platoon Serjeant 10 Platoon, Corporal Steve Childs, said:
No words that I can say will ever be enough to sum up the character of Mr Mervis. I know that, if it’s possible, you will be looking down on us with Thatch, throwing the banter around with your cheesy smile in tow.
Perhaps his greatest characteristic and what we will all remember most was how passionate he was - I have never seen a Platoon Commander who did so much to look after his men.
He had our utmost respect as a Platoon Commander, but perhaps more so as a genuine friend. Mr Mervis achieved so much in his short life. I assess the thing he was most proud of, however, was commanding the men he loved. Mr Mervis was rightfully proud of what he had achieved by commanding 10 Platoon.
He died doing what he loved, surrounded by us all who looked up to him. May your soul rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.
Company Serjeant Major C Company, Warrant Officer Class Two Simon Thomson, said:
Mr Mervis was larger and louder than life itself. From a Rifleman’s perspective he was the model Rifles Officer.
Yes, he was scruffy and at times allowed the Platoon Commander/Rifleman relationship to become a little more relaxed than perhaps the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst had taught him but, in my twenty years in the Army, I have never met, nor am I likely to meet, a man who cared so much about his men.
He fought the corner of every single one of his men, striving to get the best course or job opportunity. He would telephone me whilst on leave to let me know that one of his Riflemen had a compassionate problem at home or when a Rifleman had missed his flight back to Northern Ireland.
Platoon Commander C Company, Lieutenant Andy Huxter, said:
Paul Mervis was the epitome of a larger than life character. Arriving at the battalion with a dislocated shoulder having fallen off St Paul’s Cathedral set the tone for his Army career.
He knew and could share a joke with what seemed like everyone in the battalion. He invested in and cared for his men more than could be asked for, working all the hours of the day to make sure their best interests came first, all of which was done behind closed doors and not seen or known of by many.
He was an intellectual, deeply read and widely knowledgeable. Nothing could change his character or approach to life. The more you got to know Paul, the more complex and the more likeable a person one would find him.
His motivation could never be questioned because you knew that his men were always at the forefront of his mind. Paul was the best and most loyal of friends. He leaves a huge gap in our lives but also so many happy memories. We will miss you more than you could ever know. Be at peace.
I don’t know how to sum up Merv in one line, he was the life and soul of the mess, clearly loved by all who knew him, and rightly so. Professionally he was the best.
He made me feel so welcome in the mess and was a true friend to me, I could talk to him about absolutely anything. He was a credit to The Rifles and will never be forgotten.
Section Commander Lance Corporal Joe Ells said:
It’s difficult to write about someone who had such a strong and unique character. The ‘Merv-dog’ was like no other officer, he was always joking and laughing like one of the lads. He wasn’t just a Platoon Commander but a friend too.
He loved 10 Platoon and his men to bits and it broke his and our hearts that he would be leaving us in July for a new job. Mr Mervis left us this morning surrounded by his men. He will always be part of 10 Platoon - tough Riflemen who were proud to be led by him. Rest in peace, Mr Mervis. Always 10!
Section Commander Corporal Sean Kirkham said:
Mr Mervis was in a league of his own! A top ‘Boss’, who always put his Riflemen first. He was also like a father figure to us. His leadership was the backbone of the platoon after Rfn Thatcher was killed.
He has left us doing what he loved and was brilliant at - commanding 10 Platoon. Working with ‘Merv-dog’ was always fun. He would invariably have a big smile on his face or be trying to crack a joke.
You could hear his laugh anywhere in the FOB - usually it was at someone else’s expense. He will be sorely issed by me and all of the lads of Mighty Ten. You inspired us and it has been a pleasure working with and knowing you. Rest in peace, my friend. Gone but never forgotten.
Rifleman Stuart Elliot said:
Mr Mervis wasn’t just our Platoon Commander, he was part of our 10 Platoon family. He also managed to be a good friend to all us too.
He will never be forgotten for the natural leader he was. He had time for everyone and would go out of his way to help anyone he could. We all now think he has joined up with Thatch on the re-org - two great friends re-united, giggling like two little school girls!
Mr Mervis had strength in depth. This was evident when Thatch left us. He stayed strong, leading his men from the front. We will now do this for him and make him proud.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said:
Lieutenant Paul Mervis of 2nd Battalion The Rifles was clearly an intelligent and committed young officer who inspired and motivated others. I know that he was held in high regard by his comrades and he will be sorely missed.
My thoughts and sympathies are with his family, friends and comrades at this terrible time.