Operations in Afghanistan

Major Alexis Roberts of RGR killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Major Alexis Roberts, serving with 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Southern Afghanistan on Thursday 4 October 2007.

Ministry of Defence crest

Major Roberts, usually an Officer of 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, but serving in Afghanistan with The 1st Battalion, died as a result of an improvised explosive device just after 0800 hrs local time. The Battalion was returning to their base in Kandahar after taking part in Op PALK WAHEL when the incident occurred.

Major Alexis Roberts

Major Lex Roberts commissioned into the Royal Gurkha Rifles in December 2000. He completed his Platoon Commanders Battle Course and then joined The First Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei in March 2001. In February 2002 he attended the Standard Language Profile Level 2 in Nepali passing with a Distinction.

Major Alexis Roberts (All rights reserved.)
Major Alexis Roberts (All rights reserved.)

He deployed with The First Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles to Bosnia in October 2003, completing a 6 month tour as the Intelligence Officer. He was then posted to The Royal Military Academy as a Platoon Commander from December 2004 until 2006. Thereafter he was given acting rank of Major and assumed command of B Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Folkestone, UK. He completed two overseas exercises in Australia and Canada. Major Roberts aged 32, lived in Kent with his wife and two daughters.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Bourne MBE, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:

In Major Lex Roberts, both Battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles have lost a dear friend and a treasured officer. The British Army has lost one of its finest prospects and the nation has lost a dedicated servant, a demonstrably warm-hearted man of profound integrity and courage - quite simply, a very special human being.

Lex was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device this morning at 0810 hours to the west of Kandahar city. He was commanding a convoy of the Battalion’s vehicles. I was in my headquarters awaiting news of their progress when the tragic news came through. It goes without saying that I and those I was with were devastated when we were informed of the attack and its effects.

Lex had come across to 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles specifically to support us for this operation in Afghanistan from our sister battalion, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, but he had spent many years with us in various appointments prior to this tour and he was well known to my Riflemen and Officers. He had only been back with this Battalion for a short period, but had already established himself as one of its mainstays - conscientious, always willing to selflessly muck in and with a keen sense of duty. The convoy he was leading was completing its final leg when he was killed. I had listened in when he briefed his soldiers before the first leg of the journey deep in Helmand, and I was there to count the vehicles out when they departed. I took Lex aside for a personal chat before he climbed into his vehicle. He was taking it all in his stride, was calm, positive and entirely in control. His poise was humbling.

Lex started his service with the Gurkhas in Brunei. From the very beginning his compassion and concern for his soldiers shone through. He immediately made his mark as an officer whom the Royal Gurkha Rifles would be proud to call one of their own - a true Gurkha. In all that he did he put his soldiers first, but at the same time both he and his wife through their warmth and kindness, immediately became treasured friends of all those whose lives they touched.

One of the posts Lex filled during his service, and an indicator of his quality, was an instructor’s appointment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. A British Officer recruited by Lex into 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles remembers the impression he made on the officer cadets. He was defined by his professionalism and ready sense of humour, but it was his enthusiasm about service with Gurkha soldiers that was so infectious and which inspired those hoping to join The Royal Gurkha Rifles. His fellow Company Commanders in the Battalion have described Lex as a dear friend and exemplary officer, always available to provide balanced advice and share ideas, but also a trusted confidante, ever ready to provide moral support.

He stood above the rivalry so often a feature of regimental service and his support to his peers and Riflemen from across the entire Battalion was selfless and unconditional. From the perspective of his Platoon Commanders, Lex was naturally blessed with that rare, effortless, light touch that marks out the very best officers. He believed that every Rifleman had an important part to play and he forged a Company in which his officers and Riflemen wanted to give their all, confident of his trust. Lex was never too busy to talk, to tell a story or to listen to an idea. As his Commanding Officer, I couldn’t have asked for a finer Company Commander. He wanted to be involved, led from the front and inspired those with whom he served. He will be desperately missed by all Gurkhas.

It is not always easy to explain the close bonds that develop between soldiers, particularly on operations, but it is a form of love, and a Gurkha community is especially close-knit. Lex was loved by us all. But our loss is of nothing by comparison with that of his family. He spoke of them often and I can’t think of a more balanced family man. They have lost a husband, father, brother, son and friend. Their grief will be indescribable and our hearts go out to them. They are at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers at this terribly painful time.

1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles will never be quite the same again. Losing Lex is hurting us all, but we are not bowed and we are certainly not broken. We will work through our grief because Lex’s loss has made us that much more determined to make a genuine impact while we are here in Afghanistan. That is Lex’s legacy and we will honour it. Lex died amongst the Gurkhas he so loved. They will ensure that his sacrifice is not in vain.

Lt Col David Wombell, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said on behalf of 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles:

Major Lex Roberts was an officer in this Battalion and a close personal friend - such is life in an Infantry Battalion. He was all that I admired in a man; mentally robust, physically tough, charismatic, witty, tenacious and moral to name a few of his qualities. He lived life, as one should, fully and honestly to himself and his ideals, a deeply loyal and loving family man. Though he dies too young, he did so in selfless service to his country and in the best tradition of the Royal Gurkha Rifles amongst soldiers he loved. His absence from our lives leaves us, and the world, a poorer place and we will remember with pride and love what an honour and privilege it was to have known him. My deepest sympathy goes to his wife, daughters, parents and brothers.

His friend, Major Chris Boyer, said:

Lex you were an inspirational officer, and a true friend, I am devastated that you have been taken from us. The officers and men of the Royal Gurkha Rifles have lost a man of impeccable integrity, a man who personified what it means to be an officer in the finest traditions of this regiment. We, your friends, have lost a friend whose enthusiasm for life, sense of humour and straight talking compassion were a constant source of joy, and strength in times of need. There is an irreparable hole in the place you occupied in our lives, you will be sorely missed.

Susie Roberts, the widow of Major Roberts, said:

Lex was my best friend, the most wonderful husband and deeply loving father to Alice and Freya. He died doing the job he loved and I had just received a letter from him saying how much good he felt he was doing for the people of Afghanistan and how proud he was to be part of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. I am overwhelmed by the support from our family and friends and the positive impact Lex had on people’s lives. I hope that the media will respect my strong wish for privacy for me and my daughters at this time.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said:

I was greatly saddened by the news of Major Roberts’ tragic death. He was an extremely experienced officer and who was, quite obviously, held in high regard by his superiors, peers and those who worked for him. My heart goes out to his family and friends as they come to terms with their loss.

Published 5 October 2007