Operations in Afghanistan

Private Peter Joe Cowton killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Private Peter Joe Cowton from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Helmand province on Tuesday 29 July 2008.

Ministry of Defence crest

At 0600hrs local time, a routine patrol conducting reassurance and interdiction activities left Forward Operating Base Gibraltar and at 0847hrs local time encountered enemy forces and engaged them.

A short while later the patrol reported that Pte Cowton had been seriously wounded by a blast. Sadly, despite the efforts of the medical response team, he died as result of his injuries.

Private Peter Joe Cowton

Private Peter Joe Cowton, aged 25, was born on 24th October 1982 and grew up in Basingstoke, where he attended John Hunt of Everest School. Whilst working at a golf club, he joined The Royal Rifle Volunteers (RRV) in January 2004 in search of a career with adventure, lured by the ability to travel to far-flung parts of the world. After completing two tours of Iraq, he enlisted as a regular soldier in 2007.

Private Peter Joe Cowton from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment  (All rights reserved.)

Private Peter Joe Cowton from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (All rights reserved.)

Pte Cowton attended recruit training at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, after which he was posted to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), arriving at C (Bruneval) Company in September 2007 as pre-deployment training for Operation Herrick 8 was commencing. He deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008.

Outside of the Army, Pte Cowton loved playing and watching football and golf, reading books and following horse racing. He leaves behind his parents, one brother and one sister.

Private Cowton’s parents, Karen and Robin Rolfe, said:

Peter was proud to serve his country, having already served in Iraq whilst a member of the Territorial Army.

“He was so ‘Proud to be a Paratrooper’ as we, his parents, and family were. His short regular Army career will not be forgotten, and his ‘Red Beret’ will have loving memories in our home.

We are so proud of you.

Following the death of Private Peter Cowton on 29th July, 2 PARA’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joe O’Sullivan, paid the following tribute:

This morning C (Bruneval) Company, supported by elements of B Company 3 PARA, were conducting operations to push Taliban influence further away from their base at FOB GIBRALTAR when Pte Cowton was seriously wounded by an explosive device.

“He was treated on the ground by company medics and the company’s doctor, but he died before he could be evacuated by helicopter.

Pte Cowton was an experienced soldier and 9 Platoon’s lead scout. He had served in Iraq as a reservist before joining 2 PARA last year and had already spent three months on operations against the Taliban near FOB GIBRALTAR, in the Musa Qal’eh Wadi and further north in the Upper Sangin valley.

He is the seventh member of the Battalion, and the tenth member of 2 PARA Battle Group be killed this summer as the Battle Group creates space for the Afghan Government to connect to its people, and for development to progress in the Northern Helmand River valley.

“The cost is high and painful to Pte Cowton’s friends but most of all to his family, who had expected him home for a short R&R break in a few days time.

Pte Cowton, like those we already mourn, was a remarkable man because he knew, as every member of the Battle Group knows, what he was risking and yet he chose to face a dangerous enemy in a harsh environment and to do so every day for his friends, his regiment and his country.

“We will remember him, and will continue to build on the progress he was prepared to give his life to achieve. Utrinque Paratus.”

Major Adam Dawson, C (Bruneval) Company Commander, said:

Pte Cowton was a vibrant and much-loved 25-year-old soldier, with a passion for the Army and the Parachute Regiment.

“He was a lynchpin in 9 Platoon, with his previous military experience and mature head, cool outlook and indomitable spirit.

“He was a very promising prospect indeed for the future, despite his limited time of service at 2 PARA.

Pte Cowton was noted for being trustworthy, dedicated and the consummate professional whose energy and enthusiasm shone above all else.

“There was no fuss about the manner in which Pte Cowton conducted himself; he was on the mark with everything, quietly discerning and absolutely focussed.

“He was bright and astute, swift in body and mind, learning quickly and applying himself without fault to his chosen vocation - he was the model of modesty and humility.

His was the role of Lead Scout, a role usually reserved for the best private soldier with considerable years and experience behind him.

“It is fitting testament to Pte Cowton that within the space of 12 months he had so gained the trust of his colleagues and superiors that he had taken on a role of considerable responsibility, requiring the highest level of personal skills.

“He was the eyes and ears of the platoon; the trigger man who kept his fellow paratroopers safe by his initiative and guile.

In this role, he found himself at the front, fighting through a Taliban position, giving the enemy cause to turn and run.

“In their wake, they had left the most cowardly of devices that initiated as he led his platoon onto dominating ground from where the enemy could be suppressed.

“Despite his determination and the best efforts of the medical team, he died as a result of his wounds.

Bruneval Company has lost a very dear friend and a man with a bright future ahead of him. He was the honest soldier, applying himself to any task unswervingly for the sake of his brothers in arms, without thought for himself.

“He set the gold standard in everything he did, never one to compromise or shy away from work for a satisfactory outcome - this is his legacy that many will aspire to attain but few will achieve.

“Our very sincere condolences and prayers are extended to his family at this difficult time.”

Captain Nick Mys, 9 Platoon Commander, said:

Pte Cowton was a methodical and industrious character. He quickly became an accepted part of the team due to his hard-working nature and willingness to learn.

“His team spirit was unmatched and he was continually putting others before himself. He enjoyed being part of his platoon and was deeply bonded to his colleagues, who in turn respected him massively.

“His loss has saddened and shocked but also hardened the resolve to see this job through. He will be sorely missed.” Sergeant Simon Connor, 9 Platoon Sergeant, said:

Pte Cowton was a reserved but confident soldier whose positive outlook and sense of humour made him a popular member of the platoon.

“He was always coming to me asking if anything needed doing or telling me that he had to complete this or that job but would do more if necessary.

“He was remarkably professional in his work and mature beyond his years.

Always up for a chat, he would be ready to crack a story over a brew, and the sight of his bright red face poking through a treeline always made me smile.

“He was absolutely at ease with his fellow Paratroopers, whether soldier or officer; he had time to spare and to invest in the wellbeing of others - he took an interest and his humanity was one of his most endearing qualities.

His passing has left a hole in the platoon and he will be remembered with great fondness by all who knew him.

Corporal Paul Knapp, Section Commander, said:

Pete was one of those guys who always wanted to better himself. Naturally, when he first came to 2 PARA we ripped into him about transferring from another infantry regiment, but he took it on the chin and strived to impress us on numerous pre-deployment exercises - which he did every time.

He was keen, enthusiastic, always first to volunteer for everything and always first to clean up and look after the younger lads.

He took the challenge of scout in his stride and was easily a contender for promotion after the tour. I am proud that I served alongside him.

“He will be sorely missed; my thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. Until we meet again, rest in peace my airborne brother.”

Corporal Lewis, Section Commander, said:

Pete was my section lead scout. It was a position he excelled at, only commonly done by the most senior toms within the section. Pete was one of the most professional, keen and motivated paratroopers that I have had the privilege of serving and fighting alongside.

Pete was always the first to volunteer and always took the platoon’s morale and welfare as an important factor of his daily responsibilities.

“We used to joke that in the mornings Pete had the most haggard face in the platoon, yet he would still be the first up and getting the brews on for the boys.

My heart goes out to his family and friends. I take great pride in saying I was with him until the end and even more pride in the fact that I can call him my friend. Rest in peace brother.

Lance Corporal Christopher Pendle, former Section Commander, said:

Pete came to my section straight from training and quickly shone within the platoon.

“He was a man upon whom we could rely and trust; a man who would do anything for anyone and, because of this, we soon became close friends. He could take and give out banter extremely well and was loved for it.

He died in the manner he lived; professional and brave, with his mates around him. My heartfelt sorrow goes out to his friends and family back home. He was, he is, and he forever will be, our airborne brother. Rest in peace.

Private Mark Matthews, close friend and colleague, said:

Pte Cowton was an eager soldier and carried out every task to the best of his ability. I got to know Pete in training as we shared a room and it was easy to see how dedicated he was to the job.

He was soon known as an experienced soldier through his military skills and knowledge of the Regiment. He was always willing to help anyone in the Battalion, no matter what. He was always up for a laugh and I enjoyed spending time with him outside of work.

I invited him and a few mates for a weekend in my hometown as he was an outgoing person and was a good bloke to be around. Remembering times I have spent with him has made me realise how much of a good friend he was.

“My thoughts go out to anyone who knew him as I’m sure he had an impact on everyone he met. He will be dearly missed, not only as a colleague, but one of my closest friends. He will not be forgotten.”

Private Kristian Williams, close friend, said:

I first met Pete in training. He was very knowledgable about military stuff - skills and drills. When someone was struggling or was in need of help he would be the first one to volunteer to help them out. He had helped me out on many occasions, both at work and in my private life.

I have been a good friend of his since the first day of training, being in the same section and platoon as him in the Battalion. He was always first to volunteer for jobs that no one wanted to do.

I’m sorry for his family, friends and colleagues for their loss. He will be missed by the Regiment. I will remember him always.

Private Michael Bunce, fellow soldier in 9 Platoon, said:

I hadn’t known Pete for long as I’m the new lad in the platoon but, from the first day I met him, I could tell he was a switched on lad and a very keen member of the platoon. Whenever there was a job needed doing, he was the first to raise his hand. Whenever there was a point to be made, he was never afraid to give his opinion.

Being a new lad in a platoon is never easy but, thanks to Pete, I settled in quickly. He was always there to lend a hand and always made sure I was okay before and after patrols. Pete will be missed by all, he was a proud member of The Parachute Regiment and I am extremely fortunate to have served alongside him.

Private Dean Rogers, good friend, said:

I’ve known Pete since I first joined the Army - we went through depot together and ended up in the same platoon in 2 PARA. My opinion of Pete has never changed in the time that I have known him. He excelled as a soldier and would always put others first.

I also shared a room with Pete in Colchester and he would rarely be seen without a brew in his hand and a smile on his face. He was liked by everyone who knew him and will be sadly missed by all. Pete truly was a soldier’s soldier. My thoughts go out to his family.

Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

It is tragic to lose such a highly regarded and experienced soldier. Private Cowton had bravely served his country several times in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I am deeply saddened by his death. My thoughts are very much with his family and friends as they come to terms with their loss.

Published 31 July 2008