Operations in Afghanistan

Marine Damian Davies, Sergeant John Manuel and Corporal Marc Birch killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Marine Damian Davies, Sergeant John Manuel and Corporal Marc Birch who were killed as a result of a suspected suicide bomb attack south of Sangin, Afghanistan.

Marine Damian Jonathan Davies, Royal Marines, Landing Force Support Party (LFSP), Commando Logistic Regiment

Marine Damian Davies, born 20 October 1981, joined the Royal Navy in March 2000, before transferring to the Royal Marines in November 2001. After initially joining 821 Troop he passed out for duty with 830 Troop in December 2002.

Marine Damian Davies (All rights reserved.)
Marine Damian Davies (All rights reserved.)

On completion of training Damian joined the Driver’s branch and commenced his first draft at the Commando Logistic Regiment as a member of the Landing Force Support Party. He subsequently qualified as a Staff Car Driver serving at Fleet Headquarters before moving to the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines. He returned to the Commando Logistic Regiment at the beginning of 2008 in preparation to deploy to Afghanistan on Op Herrick 9.

An easy-going and very hardworking marine, Damian was one of the most experienced and professional members of his troop, a great friend and a trusted colleague.

Damian Davies leaves behind a young son and his wife who is expecting their second child.

His Commanding Officer, Colonel A T W Maynard, said:

The Commando Spirit resonates in every recollection of Marine Damian Davies. His courage was resolute as his tragic death in the front line is testament to. His determination and unselfishness are underscored by his reputation for being the first to volunteer for any tasks, and his cheerfulness is epitomised by the fact that nobody can remember him without a ready smile. At work his style was understated and selfless, and he had a reputation for working hard. Nevertheless, although he was a loyal and dedicated Royal Marine, his focus in life was his family - his wife Joanne and son Matthew. His extended family in the Commando Logistic Regiment share their loss and their pain, and our thoughts are with them at this time.

His Squadron Commander, Major Marcus Taylor Royal Marines, said:

An experienced and popular member of the squadron, Marine Davies was always at the forefront of activity and the first to volunteer from his troop no matter how difficult or dangerous the mission. A proud husband and father, Marine Davies will leave a void in many lives that will be impossible to fill. Cruelly and tragically taken from us, he will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege to know him. Our thoughts are with his parents, wife and young family.

Officer Commanding X-Ray Company, Major Richard Maltby Royal Marines, said:

Marine Davies was a consummate professional. Dedicated to his family, friends and the Royal Marines, his death is a tragic loss. A specialist in his field, he died while on operations with X-Ray Company Group, fighting the enemy and serving his country. Although this is a difficult time for us all, we will remain resolute. My thoughts are with his wife, Joanne, his son, Matthew, and his unborn child.

His Troop Commander, Lieutenant Edward Argles Royal Marines, said:

Marine Damian Davies was one of the most professional and dedicated members of his troop. Always first to volunteer he could be relied upon to achieve any task given to him to the best of his abilities, usually with a cigarette in his hand, and wasn’t content unless he’d completed the task fully, a true ‘bootneck’. Marine Davies had been sent to FOB [Forward Operating Base] Nolay to join the Forward Logistic Node as one of the most experienced marines within the troop and was a massive support to his Troop Sergeant, while operating with 45 Commando Royal Marines. A very proud and loving husband and father, my thoughts and that of the troop’s are with his young family.

His Troop Sergeant, Sergeant Kenyon, said:

Marine Damo Davies was one of the strongest characters of the Troop, always joking and with a permanent smile on his face even in the worst conditions. He was once in the Royal Navy (which we never let him forget) but wanted a harder challenge and, seeing the light, joined the Royal Marines. Unlike many, he never complained about anything and always put 110% effort into all he did. Damo never liked being stuck on camp and was always itching to get out on the ground to do the job he was trained for. Damo was well liked by all who knew him and by everyone who ever met him. He will be sorely missed and forever remembered by all.

Corporal Ben Parks and Marine Lee Douglas, 1 Troop LFSP, said:

The first image of Damo was that of him sitting in his chair outside his tent, cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. In work Damo was the first to volunteer no matter what the task and he would make sure it was seen through to the end, never afraid of getting his hands dirty and not happy unless it was completed perfectly. Back in Chivenor, Damo was always talking of his wife Joanne and son Matthew; he loved and adored them with all his heart, and what a huge heart he had. Damo will be remembered as a ‘bootneck’s’ ‘bootneck’, a true work-horse, a great friend and a perfect husband and father. He will be greatly missed by all who had met and worked with him. Rest in peace Royal.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

It is clear that Marine Damian Davies was an expert in his field and a professional and dedicated member of Commando Logistics Regiment. His death is a tragic loss and my sympathies are with his wife Joanne and son Matthew. They along with the rest of his family, friends and colleagues are in my thoughts at this most difficult time.

Sergeant John Henry Manuel, Royal Marines, Company HQ, X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines

Sergeant Manuel was killed in action on 12 December 2008 in Sangin, southern Helmand, whilst deployed on operations with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Group, Royal Marines. The company was conducting an operation alongside Afghan National Army troops to dominate areas posing a dangerous threat to British forces and the local Afghan population. Whilst acting as the commander of the Quick Reaction Force in support of a company operation, Sergeant Manuel was killed by a suspected suicide bomber. Despite the efforts of all those around him, Sergeant Manuel tragically died from his injuries at the scene of the incident.

Sergeant John Manuel (All rights reserved.)
Sergeant John Manuel (All rights reserved.)

Sergeant Manuel, known as ‘Manny’, was born in the North East of England on 11 November 1970. After completing Royal Marines Commando Recruit Training in September 1989, he joined X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines. Manny was an ‘Arbroath Orphan’, an affectionate term used at 45 Commando for ranks stranded north of the border at weekends. He served for the majority of his career with the Fleet Protection Group, also known as Comacchio Group, and with 45 Commando Royal Marines. He also spent a brief spell at the Defence School of Transport, Leconfield. At this time both 45 Commando and Comacchio Group Royal Marines were based in Royal Marines Barracks Condor, Arbroath, and Manny made many close friends and was very much a part of the 45 Commando family. During this time he gained considerable operational experience in Iraq (Op Driver), Belize and Kosovo (Op Agricola). He was recently promoted to Sergeant.

Sergeant Manuel was a Specialist Driver/Instructor and was also highly qualified in the field of logistics. He fulfilled a crucial role as the Quartermaster’s Logistic Forward Representative within X- Ray Company, approaching this labour-intensive and demanding role with vigour and passion and providing the company with the necessary stores and support required to achieve its mission. He also embraced any opportunity to patrol with X-Ray Company.

Sergeant Manuel was a martial arts and motorcycle enthusiast. He was particularly talented in judo, a sport in which he excelled. On return from the current tour it was his ambition to establish a judo club in Condor for the benefit of all ranks of 45 Commando Group Royal Marines based at RM Condor, especially the ‘orphans’.

Sergeant Manuel was an industrious character and a good and loyal friend; his loss has left a void in the hearts of X-Ray Company and 45 Commando. His ‘ball of fire’ personality combined with his Geordie humour was well-known and respected throughout the unit. He was approaching the end of his career in the Royal Marines and it was his aspiration to pursue a second career with the Police as an Advanced Motorcycle Instructor.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 45 Commando Group, said:

Sergeant ‘Manny’ Manuel was one of 45 Commando’s biggest characters and had spent a huge proportion of his 20-year career serving with the unit. Dynamic, enthusiastic, forthright and always cheerful he was a much valued and respected member of the Sergeant’s Mess, X-Ray Company, Motor Transport Troop, and the unit as a whole. His contribution to the Commando Group and to the Royal Marines was enormous whether he was deployed on operations or pursuing his love of martial arts and motorbikes. Extremely courageous and determined he was killed by a suspected suicide bomb whilst playing an important part in an operation to provide security to the local population of Sangin and I know that the whole unit joins me in sending my deepest condolences to his partner and his family as they come to terms with the loss of such an inspirational individual.

Major Richard Maltby Royal Marines, Officer Commanding X-Ray Company, said:

Sergeant Manuel was a larger than life character who had become part of the backbone of X-Ray Company. A limitless ‘ball of fire’, Sergeant Manuel was at the forefront of company life. Hugely popular, he combined a mischievous sense of humour with a dedication and professional manner that was second-to-none. He died doing what he loved, commanding a detachment on operations and taking the fight to the enemy. His loss will not only be felt by the company and battle group, but also across the Royal Marine Corps. However, at this difficult and tragic time, my thoughts are with his family and his partner, Rachel.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Jim Curran Royal Marines, Company Sergeant Major, X-Ray Company, said:

I have known Sergeant ‘Manny’ Manuel for nearly 20 years, having both served the majority of our careers in 45 Commando RM. I was incredibly proud that we were serving in X-ray Company together again. ‘Manny’ was an exceptional Royal Marine whose high standards, fortitude and leadership made him an integral part of the company and we will be at a loss without his input. The enthusiasm, cheerfulness and sheer energy he displayed when undertaking his duties was an inspiration to all. Sergeant Manuel was an outstanding Royal Marine Sergeant displaying the highest standards throughout. A good friend, ‘Manny’ will be sorely missed by all.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kev Cheeseman Royal Marines, Company Sergeant Major, Zulu Company, said:

Manny was an extremely professional lad who was always cheery and never had a bad word to say about anyone. He had a permanent grin on his face and always looked on the bright side of any situation no matter what it was. A Geordie through and through, he loved his hometown as much as he did the Royal Marines. Manny was a truly outstanding individual who would help anyone without fuss or seek of reward. A truly professional, hard-working Royal Marine who was very proud of his background and of being a ‘bootneck’, he smiled through all life’s ups and downs. He will be missed.

Sergeant Sean ‘Snatch’ McKeown Royal Marines, 5 Troop, X-Ray Company, said:

‘Manny’ was small in stature but larger than life. You could always hear him before you saw him and when you met him his broad grin and sense of humour would instantly make you smile. I’ve known Manny for nearly 20 years. We’ve served as marines, corporals and sergeants together in Comacchio Group, Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines and 45 Commando Royal Marines. Like me, he tended to stay north of the border which meant we could get home to our beloved north-east more easily, having ‘runs ashore’ together in Newcastle at weekends. Manny was a wonderful friend but also every inch a Royal Marine; motivating, professional and thorough in every task he did. He had the courage of a lion and the personality of a hundred men. His sense of humour was infectious and when I had a bad day he was always there as a shoulder to ‘drip’ on. He would give you his last, but make you sign for it first. Cheers for the Newcastle Legends DVD but in my eyes you are The True Legend. I’ll miss you Manny. Always your mate, ‘Snatch’.

Sergeant David Thompson, Yankee Company, a close friend, said:

I’ve known John since I was 13 years old, as young marine cadets! Even at this young age John possessed the ‘Commando Spirit’ in spades. He was a truly inspirational character, always with a cheeky smile on his face. He was the first Royal Marines Commando that I knew, who I looked up to with total respect. John was undoubtedly one of the main reasons why I joined the Corps, a true ‘bootneck’ through and through. He will be missed by all but never forgotten. My thoughts are with his family during these hard times.

Corporal Michael ‘Mick’ O’Donnell, Machine Gun Section Commander, 6 Troop, Fire Support Group, said:

‘Jacky’ Manuel, ‘Manny’ or ‘wor Jacky’ as I preferred to call him was small in height but massive in personality with a big heart to match. Jacky was one of the most professional and hard-working friends I’ve had. He always had time for a bit of a ‘craic’ and a ‘hot wet’ - no sugar. Whether it was to wind someone up for a joke or, on a more serious note, to offer advice, Manny’s laugh was infectious. It wouldn’t take long for everybody around him to start laughing too, even if they didn’t know what they were laughing about. If he had a bee in his bonnet on a bad day you would still get a smile and a laugh out of him. I, myself, feel very privileged to have known the big-hearted Geordie ‘wor Jacky’ and things will never be the same without you around. I will miss you mate.

Marine Sam Laird, X-Ray Company Headquarters, and Marine Chris Rogerson, 6 Troop Fire Support Group, said:

Well what can we say about John, ‘Manny’? We knew him from when we were kids, rolling about on the judo mats, listening to his tales about the Marines (having rocked up ten minutes adrift, in true bootneck style!). He would do anything for us, not caring about age. He was there when we needed lifts, needed someone to talk to and he was even there when one of us was arrested. It would be fair to say we idolised him. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, we have done it to a ‘T’. We chased him for our black belts, got our Green Berets and, just like him, joined X-Ray Company in our first draft in the Royal Marines. Somehow we managed to all meet up where we first started, here in X-Ray Company on Op Herrick. He put his rank aside when talking to us, constantly joking with each other, but behind closed doors we could sit and have a heart-to-heart and listen to his advice. Although sometimes we never took it, we always knew he was right. We will miss his banter and his words of wisdom and his departure will leave a hole in our lives. He was a best friend, true father figure and a bootneck through and through. You will always be in our hearts and minds, forever missed but not forgotten.

From all the ranks of Motor Transport Troop, 45 Commando Royal Marines:

Manny was a true professional. No matter what he was involved in he would do it with a mass of enthusiasm and passion; he always told it like it was and even though you knew you were right, with Manny you were actually wrong! He was the ‘Jack Russell’ of the Royal Marines; small, feisty and hyperactive he did everything at ‘Mach 10’. But no matter how busy he was, Manny always had time for a ‘dit’ (story) and a ‘wet’ (drink) session - normally the wet would always be finished before his dit! Manny was passionate about judo and was instrumental in setting up the ‘Condor Judo Club’; his passion, and knowledge will be sorely missed. His other passion was for motorbikes and if you couldn’t find him in his office you could no doubt find him polishing his own bike inside the MT (Motor Transport) shed in preparation for taking it out for a spin after work. He had always wanted to ride hard and fast on the German autobahns and his dream was set to come true on return from Herrick 9 with his close-knit biker gang. Although he won’t be able to make the trip himself now, we will still make the trip and legally pass the 100 in his honour. Manny made us all laugh and wouldn’t want us to be sad for long which is easier said than done; we wish he was here now to make us all laugh again. We will miss him.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

Sergeant John Manuel has been described by his friends and colleagues as professional, courageous and hard-working but most of all inspirational. Sergeant Manuel died while leading his men and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues who will clearly miss him deeply.

Corporal Marc Birch, Royal Marines, 6 Troop, X-Ray Company Royal Marines

Corporal Birch was killed in action on 12 December 2008 in Sangin, southern Helmand, on operations with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Group, Royal Marines. The company was conducting an operation alongside Afghan National Army troops to dominate areas posing a dangerous threat to British forces and the local Afghan population. Whilst acting as Second-in-Command of the Quick Reaction Force in support of a company operation, Corporal Birch was killed by a suspected enemy suicide bomber. Despite the efforts of all those around him, Corporal Birch tragically died from his injuries at the scene of the incident.

Corporal Marc Birch (All rights reserved.)
Corporal Marc Birch (All rights reserved.)

Marc Birch, known as ‘Birchy’, was born in Northampton on 23 March 1982. After completing Royal Marines Commando Recruit Training in March 2000, he joined 42 Commando Royal Marines. He served at 42 Commando Royal Marines for seven years. During this time he gained considerable operational experience in Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and Iraq. In 2005 he was promoted to the rank of Corporal and subsequently served in the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines in April 2007 before moving on to 45 Commando Royal Marines in November 2007.

Corporal Birch was a proud ‘Tankie’, a Heavy Weapons Anti-Tank Specialist. As a Section Commander within 6 Troop, X- Ray Company, his responsibilities placed him at the vanguard of troop and company action. With his specialist skills he provided intimate fire support to the front line of the fighting troops with a variety of Crew Served Weapons: Heavy Machine Gun, Grenade Machine Gun and the Javelin missile system. As an experienced corporal he was instrumental in the success of his Troop and Company.

He was a keen footballer and when serving at 42 Commando he played for the unit team on a regular basis and was a crucial member of the team when they won the Navy and Tunney Cup in 2000. As testament to his sporting ability, he scored the only goal against the Sierra Leone National Team when 42 Commando played them in Freetown. This fact was also an integral part of his comedy routine.

Corporal Birch was an outstanding character, a good friend and an absolute pleasure to work alongside. He had a cheeky, quirky sense of humour and never failed to see the bright side of life; this combination made him incredibly popular. His gregarious nature was enhanced with the attributes of courage and loyalty. He exemplified all the qualities any Royal Marine Commando would aspire to have. He hoped to progress through the ranks and serve in all of the Commando Units.

Corporal Birch and his wife Charlene on their wedding day (All rights reserved.)
Corporal Birch and his wife Charlene on their wedding day (All rights reserved.)

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 45 Commando Group, said:

Corporal Marc ‘Birchy’ Birch was an outstanding Royal Marine Commando and a popular and very capable leader. Courageous, determined, warm-hearted and with an impish sense of humour, he demanded high standards from his men but always motivated them by personal example and commitment. He has made a considerable contribution to 45 Commando and to the Royal Marines during his service with the unit and his approachability, engaging personality and loyalty was much respected throughout his Troop and his Company. He was killed by a suicide bomb whilst he was deployed at the forefront of an important operation to provide security to the people of Sangin. 45 Commando has lost both an outstanding individual and an important member of the team and he will be greatly missed by us all. Corporal Birch was also a devoted family man and I extend my very deepest condolences to his close family and friends as they come to terms with his loss.

Major Richard Maltby Royal Marines, Officer Commanding X-Ray Company, said:

Corporal Birch was the embodiment of a Royal Marine Commando. Continually cheerful and with a wry smile, he was courageous, determined and utterly professional; he died serving his country and helping his friends. It has been my absolute privilege to serve with somebody so dedicated and loyal; his conduct on operations was first class. Although bitterly saddened by this loss I know Cpl Birch would expect the company to continue to take the fight to the enemy. His loss will be felt across the company and the battle group. However, my thoughts are with his family and Charlene, who he recently married. He will be sorely missed by all.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Jim Curran Royal Marines, Company Sergeant Major, X-Ray Company, said:

Cpl Birch joined a newly-formed X-Ray Company in November 2007. His knowledge, experience, high professional standards and drive were instrumental in shaping both the Fire Support Troop and X-Ray Company into a highly effective fighting force ready to deploy to Afghanistan . During Op Herrick 9, ‘Birchy’ carried out his duties efficiently with determination, focus and thoroughness. With his wry sense of humour and bootneck boldness, ‘Birchy’ was always great fun to be around both at work and ‘ashore’. Cpl Birch was an exceptional Junior Non- Commissioned Officer who embodied the highest standards and traditions of the Royal Marines. He will be missed by all of X-Ray Company.

Captain Luke Thomson, Officer Commanding 6 Troop Fire Support Group, said:

Corporal Birch was a highly popular member of X-Ray Company and 6 Troop. Extremely professional and always willing to help out other marines within the troop, his knowledge and experience had proven indispensable throughout Op Herrick 9. His dry sense of humour would get him out of most scrapes; mostly involving navigation as the troop found out in Norway, Wales and the Sangin Valley, but his energy was infectious. All who knew him will miss him dearly and most of all the men of X-Ray Company who saw him as a friend and as the epitome of a Royal Marine Commando.

Sergeant Neil Metcalf, 6 Troop Fire Support Group, said:

I was pleased to find that Birchy would be a Corporal in 6 Troop, X-Ray Company. Having known him for a number of years at 42 Commando as a strong and dependable marine, it was evident that he would be an asset to the troop. His willingness for a few beers at the drop of a hat was impressive. Whilst on Op Herrick 9 his sense of humour and work ethos was contagious amongst the troop. He will be greatly missed by me and all that knew him. Most of all his love for his family and wife was absolute. Our thoughts go out to them in their time of sorrow.

Corporal John Cowie, Javelin Section Commander, 6 Troop Fire Support Group, said:

Corporal Marc ‘Birchy’ Birch played a pivotal role within the company. He was keen to pass on his knowledge and experience to junior marines. Always seeing the best in people he would manage to get an extra mile out of all of those under his command. He would often work on the 1% rule - tell enough jokes and 1% of them would get the desired result. Whenever a prank was played within the troop Birchy would be the ringmaster. Like a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Birchy would be found guilty by simply the grin on his face. It was obvious to all who knew Birchy that his family meant everything to him. Everyone knew how supportive his family were of his life within the Royal Marines, especially Charlene. He was so proud to be married that he spoke of her daily whilst deployed on operations. We will miss his laughter, his smile but most of all his great personality that inspired us all.

Marine Joe Hawley, 6 Troop Fire Support Group, said:

The term nicest guy can be used to describe Birchy. He was truly one in a million. His good humour and happy go lucky nature shone through in everything that he did. The junior marines within the troop feel fortunate to have worked with him so early on in their careers. We can only hope to aspire to be as good a bootneck as Birchy, even if he was more ‘pussers’ than a personal kit muster. His ability on the slopes of Norway earned him the nickname ‘arctic fox’ but his capability to go on a spontaneous run ashore was remarkable. He was devoted to his wife Charlene and extremely close to his family. It was clear to all of us that he loved them very much. Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him and who would put up with his abysmal jokes will sorely miss Birchy. From all of 6 Troop - ‘Never forgotten’.

Corporal Birch’s family paid the following tributes:

So very, very proud of such a wonderful son. We are so proud of everything you have achieved in your short lifetime. Our hearts are broken and we will miss your infectious smile and your unbelievable wit forever. Goodnight, God Bless Marc, we will all miss you terribly son. Love Mum and Dad xxxx.

When Marc first came into our house to take Charlene out for the first time it was like somebody had put the light on. He had a fantastic charm about him along with that cheeky smile. Marc has been a salvation for my little girl since her mum has past away. They bonded together right from the first day they met and it was quite evident that they were right for each other.

There was partnership, friendship and commitment to each other which was second-to-none. Whenever Marc came home from leave we always had a good banter together, mostly about my height. His love to Charlene, his family and the Marines was his life, he lived life to the full. Marc’s attitude to life was to get on with it and do his best whatever was put in front of him. This attitude got him a lot of respect from his comrades in his troop and also the lads he trained.

Marc has left a big void in our lives and he will be dearly missed by his wife, family and friends. Love Phil, proud father-in-law x.

My boy, my heart, how will I ever survive without you in my life? I miss you with every heartbeat, my life will never be the same again, I love you beyond any words darling, the impact you have had will stay forever with everyone you ever came into contact with.

I brought you into this world and now all too soon I have to let you go. There is no-one prouder in all this world, thank you for being my baby boy, Mum x.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

It is obvious that Corporal Marc Birch was an incredibly popular member of X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, and his experience and enthusiasm will be missed by his colleagues. My sympathies are with his wife Charlene, the rest of his family, his friends and his colleagues.