Operations in Afghanistan

Marine Tony Evans and Marine Georgie Sparks killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Marine Tony Evans and Marine Georgie Sparks, both of J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, on Thursday 27th November 2008.

The men had been conducting a foot patrol to the north-west of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. Marines Evans and Sparks had moved on to the roof of a compound when, at around 0900 hours, there was an attack by insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and they were badly wounded.

Marines Tony Evans and Georgie Sparks   (All rights reserved.)
Marines Tony Evans (left) and Georgie Sparks (All rights reserved.)

Both received immediate medical attention and were moved to a secure location before being put on a helicopter to be transferred back to Camp Bastion. However, both sadly died from their injuries during the flight.

Marine Tony Evans

Marine Tony Evans, aged 20, was born in April 1988 and came from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. He began his Royal Marines training in October 2006 and passed out in July 2007, joining 42 Commando a few days later. In February 2008 he completed arctic warfare training in Norway.

Marine Tony Evans (All rights reserved.)
Marine Tony Evans (All rights reserved.)

Tony’s parents, Mr Tony Evans and Ms Julia Churchill, paid the following tribute to their son:

Tony was the type of person who would do anything to help his friends and family and was well respected by all. The Royal Marines was his life since the age of 13 when he became a Royal Marines cadet.

We, his family, are very proud of what he achieved and will miss him dearly.

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stickland Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Marine Tony Evans lost his life doing the job he loved, fighting alongside his friends and brothers-in-arms in the tight knit and tenacious band that is J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines. A man of humour, courage and energy, he was a ‘Bootneck’ through and through.

Respected by his peers, he was the epitome of the Commando; robust in action, loyal in friendship, determined and resolute and always living life to the full. The tributes from his colleagues say it all.

We have lost one of the ‘Smiley Boys’ of 42 Commando Royal Marines, and his comrades are unwavering that his loss will not be in vain. This is a tragic loss touching all in the Unit and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

Major Reggie Turner Royal Marines, Officer Commanding J Company Group, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Marine Tony Evans was one of the biggest characters in J Company. Fit, determined and tenacious with an infectious sense of humour he could be relied upon to raise morale in the harshest of conditions. Physically strong with an evident passion for his job, Marine Evans was always at the forefront of the action.

He embodied the Commando ethos being determined, unselfish and always cheerful in adversity. As a novice in Norway his fortitude and monolithic work ethic were recognised by the Mountain Leaders, and this remained the case on operations in Afghanistan where he was always at the centre of the action.

A consummate professional and team player he was always keen to develop his professional skills and took every opportunity to improve himself, whether it be in the gym or wading through ‘A Brief History of Time’.

Tony lost his life whilst selflessly providing fire support to his colleagues in the face of sustained enemy fire. We will miss his irrepressible good humour, his companionship and his evident lust for life.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Marine Dave Wotherspoon, 2 Troop, J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

There is nothing about his job that Tony didn’t love, whether it was going on patrol, sitting in a sangar (sentry post), or cracking funnies with the boys.

He had a few issues though: his first one was the fact that he couldn’t grow a moustache, as hard as he tried; secondly, he was always trying to get himself ‘massive’, hitting the gym twice a day, but try as he did, he could never find that ‘chest’.

But inside was the heart of a lion. On his Cold Weather Warfare Course in Norway he was the winner of the ‘Good Egg’ Award (for being an all round good guy); which speaks volumes of his character.

Always the first man in anywhere, he was eager, especially when asked to knock down a compound wall; in true ‘Tony’ style, he put down most of the Compound! He will always be with us forever in our hearts and minds; a true man’s man!

Marines Josh McGowan and Tom Ellis, J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines said:

Tony Evans the ‘Maccam’, not a Geordie! Tony was a true definition of a “Bootneck”, always smiling, always spinning his intriguing ‘dits’ [stories] - some might say even when he shouldn’t have been, but we still loved to hear them. Tony was always up for a laugh. If he wasn’t lighting up a cigarette you would hear his distinctive ‘Maccam’ voice echoing through the building.

Tony was an excellent soldier. Tony was a Royal Marines Commando. A very fit young lad with aspirations of being a sniper, there was no one better. Tony was our “oppo” (mate) and most importantly, our friend. He will be truly missed and never forgotten throughout J Company.

Lance Corporal Chris Bedford, J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Tony Evans was the typical ‘Jack the lad’, a nightmare for all the hierarchy. I have never known anyone to get in so much trouble! However he brought so much morale to the lads, if you could understand his Geordie accent.

Besides the tomfoolery he turned it on as a professional ‘Bootneck’ when he needed to. He came to me for advice on money, life in general and his broken car that is still sitting in the car park in Bickleigh Barracks. Tony brought life to the party and he will be sadly missed by all of us.

Captain Ben Gaffney Royal Marines, Training Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

I had the pleasure of taking Marine Tony Evans through Royal Marines Recruit Training with 932 Troop. From the very start it was clear that he possessed the right qualities to become a Royal Marines Commando.

During his Troop Commander’s interview in the first week of training, whilst most other Recruits were awkward and retiring, Tony could barely contain his excitement about the adventures that stood before him!

“Nothing fazed him during training; he faced every challenge with a big grin and gained the respect of the other members of his Troop and his training team alike.

He was a talented soldier and a man whose humour and banter drew others to him. I instructed over 200 Recruits during my time, Tony Evans was one of the very best.

“I think I speak on behalf of all of 932 Troop and its training team when I say Tony will always be in our memories and he will be sorely missed.”

Marine Georgie Sparks

Marine Georgie Sparks, aged 19, was born in December 1988 and came from Epping in Essex. He joined the Royal Marines in June 2006 and passed out from training in July 2007, joining 42 Commando a few days later. During his time at 42 Commando he qualified as a sniper.

Marine Georgie Sparks (All rights reserved.)
Marine Georgie Sparks (All rights reserved.)

Georgie’s parents, Mr Wayne Sparks and Mrs Toni Sparks, and his sister Miss Katie Sparks, paid the following tribute:

We have lost our best friend as well as our son. We are deeply saddened and in mourning. We are so very proud of Georgie - he always wanted to be a Royal Marine. Georgie loved the outdoors - fishing, shooting, paintballing - and was very close to his family.

“We miss him so much.”

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stickland Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Marine Georgie Sparks was a quiet, understated professional. He lost his life fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades, covering their actions with his expert sniper skills. His loss has touched the entire Unit but no more so than the tight band of warriors that are the J Company ‘Jesters’.

A man to be relied on, a man who had found his place and a man at the peak of his game - Marine Sparks had found a profession he loved and in which he excelled. He never looked back from winning the Commando Medal in training - an award for one who demonstrates Commando spirit, tenacity and courage in adversity above all others, something he lived by to his dying day.

The brotherhood of 42 Commando Royal Marines mourn him and remain resolute his loss will not be in vain. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. The tributes from his colleagues say it all.

Major Reggie Turner Royal Marines, Officer Commanding J Company Group, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Marine Georgie Sparks joined J Company in April. A personable, courteous and hard-working individual, his dedication and professionalism were obvious and it is these high standards which enabled him to qualify as a Sniper prior to deployment to Afghanistan.

Although young, he demonstrated maturity beyond his years in the field and could be relied upon to tackle all tasks with characteristic enthusiasm and dedication. Naturally quiet, he had a dry sense of humour and was a popular member of 2 Troop.

He lost his life whilst providing covering fire for his colleagues, selflessly putting himself at risk in order to help others. We will miss his confident but understated manner, his meticulous eye for detail and his evident passion for his specialisation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Georgie’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Lance Corporal Lee Smith - 2 Troop, J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Georgie - one of us forever. He was, quite possibly, one of the neatest; always cleaning something. He was, and always will be, our Troop’s ‘Baby’. But don’t believe for a second that counted against him. Wherever we were, whether on camp, in a compound, or on sentry, this man’s smile could light up your darkest day.

His life revolved around his two passions: his family and his shooting. He was the perfect soldier, the perfect friend. His hand was always up for any task, and he gave everything he had, and more. But the first place and last place he remains is in our hearts and in our minds forever.

Marines Josh McGowan and Tom Ellis - J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Georgie Sparks, or ‘Sparky’ to his mates, came across as a quiet individual but to his friends he was a ‘hoofing’ bloke with a cracking sense of humour.

“Strong-minded and very determined he showed these qualities on more than one occasion, usually during ‘phys’ (exercise) but most significantly when successfully completing the arduous RM Sniper course.

“Sparky was an honest lad, a true ‘oppo’ (mate), very polite and a genuine bloke, a unique individual and you will never come across another guy like Georgie. He will be dearly missed from all his friends in J Company.”

Lance Corporal Chris Bedford, J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Georgie Sparks was one of the few lads that I regarded so highly as a very good young Marine and more importantly one of the best friends I could have known.

“Georgie (or one of the many abusive names we used to call him), told me once how many people told him he would never make it through training. But he proved everyone wrong, not only passing training but becoming a sniper, on his second attempt. He would have hated me for writing that last part!

He lived in my room; we drank together, ate together and prepared our kit together. Also shooting a lot of rabbits with the rifles he kept at home. I will miss him, the lads will miss him and my thoughts are with his family.

Captain Orlando Rogers Royal Marines, OC Manoeuvre Support Group, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

Marine Georgie Sparks was an immensely proud Royal Marine with an immeasurable passion for life and his chosen career. Out of all the recruits that I instructed, I remembered him the most - for he epitomized the qualities of a Royal Marine. Even in the depths of a freezing Dartmoor, he was always smiling, never giving less than 110 per cent, and with a constant desire to learn more.

It was during his training I saw him for his true colours and what I saw was an incredibly determined, reliable and most of all selfless man - the type of Marine you would choose to be watching your back in a firefight. He died doing exactly that, putting himself in danger to keep his colleagues safe. When people ask me what instructing Marines was like, I recall Marine Sparks, and how proud I was to see him presented with his Green Beret in front of his family. I knew it meant the world to him to earn it, but it meant even more to him to see his family so happy and proud when he received it.

Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton MP, said:

I was deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of Marine Georgie Sparks and Marine Tony Evans. It is clear that both were brave and highly professional young men who died doing a job they were passionate about.

The loss of Marine Sparks and Marine Evans reminds us of the extreme challenges that our forces in Afghanistan face. My thoughts are with the families of these two men and all the many colleagues and friends they leave behind.