Operations in Afghanistan

Privates Aaron McClure, Robert Foster and John Thrumble killed in Afghanistan

It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of Privates Aaron James McClure, Robert Graham Foster and John Thrumble from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment who were killed in Afghanistan on Thursday 23 August 2007.

The three soldiers, all serving in 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, were killed when the platoon came under accurate fire from a determined Taliban force during a fighting patrol to disrupt enemy activity and reassure the local population north west of Kajaki, in northern Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan.

During the ensuing fire fight air support was requested from two US F15 aircraft to engage the enemy positions and it was then that a bomb tragically struck the compound where the three soldiers and their section were located. An emergency helicopter was tasked to assist, however, sadly Privates McClure, Foster and Thrumble were pronounced dead at the scene.

Two other soldiers were also injured in the incident which occurred at approximately 6.30pm local time. The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the medical facility at Camp Bastion for treatment.

The events surrounding the incident are subject to an investigation.

Private Aaron James McClure

Private McClure, aged 19, from Ipswich, nicknamed ‘Troy’, enlisted into the British Army in March 2006 and having completed training as a rifleman at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, he joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment in October the same year. He had recently participated in exercises in the UK and Kenya.

Private Aaron James McClure (All rights reserved.)
Private Aaron James McClure (All rights reserved.)

As a rifleman in 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company Private McClure had been serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan since March 2007 on his first operational tour. During this time he had been involved in numerous fierce engagements with the Taliban frequently at close range, often in dangerous situations and in the most demanding of environments. ‘Troy’ quickly established himself as a highly capable, motivated and brave soldier.

His quiet, unassuming nature was founded on an inner confidence that saw him excel at a very early stage in his career; he was a rising star within the Company who had a bright future. Widely regarded as a first-rate soldier, notable for his complete reliability and commitment, it was in contact with the enemy where he displayed his true ability working selflessly to support the remainder of his platoon without complaint; characteristics he will be remembered for. Private McClure’s friendly, modest exterior belied a soldier who was focused, physically and mentally tough, and intent on doing the utmost for his team-mates. His presence will be missed immensely by all within the Company.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, said:

At 19 years old, Private Aaron McClure was already a veteran of over forty engagements with the enemy. It is tragic that where the Taliban had failed, it was an accident that has taken him from us. Loyal, hard working and highly professional, he constantly surpassed the standards expected, and his loss is a bitter blow to the whole Battalion. We will never forget him, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult of times.

Major Tony Borgnis, Officer Commanding B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private McClure, although relatively new to the Company, was an exceptionally professional and highly motivated soldier. He rapidly established himself as one of the hardest working and most dependable soldiers I have. He consistently carried out even the most demanding tasks to the highest of standards. His actions epitomised the very best qualities of the British Infantry, in general, and the Royal Anglian Regiment in particular. He was a true and loyal friend to all those he served with, always placing the needs of others above his own. His loss is tragic and deeply felt by all members of the Company. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.

Lieutenant George Seal-Coon, Platoon Commander 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private Aaron McClure was a rising star of the platoon. As a soldier, he displayed the greatest levels of professionalism and dedication in the most arduous and dangerous of environments. As a friend he was utterly selfless and reliable. His strength of character was ever an inspiration to those who worked and lived alongside him. We are all devastated by his loss.

Sergeant ‘Woody’ Woodrow, Platoon Sergeant, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private ‘Troy’ McClure was an amazingly robust soldier with potential beyond his young years. He was always helpful and dependable in the thick of things. We will miss him deeply and he will never be forgotten.

Lance Corporal Stevie Veal, Section Commander, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Troy as most people knew him was a smart and intelligent soldier whose aspirations inspired his peers and even his commander. He was more than capable of becoming a fine junior non commissioned officer, which is what he wanted above all. He was a model for the British Army. We will always remember him, and it was more than a privilege to serve with him.

Private Aaron ‘Ronnie’ Barker, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

McClure known to most of his mates as ‘Troy’ was a hard working and very determined member of 7 Platoon who would ‘work his socks off’ to achieve the best results he could. ‘Troy’ had a lot of ambition and would have gone far in the Army. He will be missed very much by all of us in 7 Platoon and the Company. Rest in peace mate and my thoughts are with your family.

Aaron’s family said:

Aaron was a wonderful son to Lorraine and Karl and grandson to Vi, Allan, Linda and Lenny. He was loved by his aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friends alike. He was also looked up to by his brothers, Lewis, Daniel and Ryan.

Aaron loved the army life to which he was dedicated and had aspirations for promotion. He was never happier than when with family who knew Aaron as a bright, happy, handsome lad who would do anything for anyone.

Aaron was a light in our lives now extinguished, always loved, never forgotten.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with other families affected by this tragic incident.”

Private Robert Graham Foster

Private Foster, aged 19, from Harlow, enlisted into the British Army in April 2006 and after completing training as a rifleman at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, he joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment in October the same year. He had recently participated in exercises in the UK and Kenya.

Private Robert Graham Foster (All rights reserved.)
Private Robert Graham Foster (All rights reserved.)

Private Foster had been serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan since March 2007 as a rifleman in 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company. It was his first operational tour and like Private McClure, he saw significant action during his short time with the Battalion, being involved in numerous, often close quarter, engagements with the Taliban in the most demanding circumstances. In these situations he fought with a strength and courage that belied his relative inexperience, testament to his unswerving commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Private Foster was one of the Company’s real characters. An extrovert by nature, his gregarious approach was a refreshing relief from the stresses of combat; unsurprisingly he was hugely popular within his platoon and the wider Company. He had the rare quality to always see the bright side of any situation, irrespective of the severity of events. His confidence and excellent sense of humour shone through at every stage, lifting the morale of all those around him.

An accomplished rifleman who worked hard for his mates, Private Foster clearly enjoyed Army life and being amongst his fellow soldiers. He had a bright future in a career that he loved. His absence will be felt deeply within the Company.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, said:

As a junior soldier, Private Robert Foster settled in remarkably quickly and was a highly respected Viking. Fiercely loyal to his friends, he had seemingly limitless reserves of courage and strength of character way beyond his years. He had a rare quality of always seeing the bright side of any situation and a mischievous sense of humour which made him hugely popular. Never to be forgotten, our sympathy and prayers are with his family and friends at this very difficult time.

Major Tony Borgnis, Officer Commanding B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private Foster joined the Company only six months before deployment to Afghanistan and yet he immediately became an integral part of the team. His consistently high morale was infectious across all ranks with which he served. His apparently unlimited capacity for carrying out courageous acts was an inspiration to the rest of the Company. As a soldier he was utterly dependable and professional even through the darkest of times. As a friend he was compassionate, kind and lifted the spirits of those around him. He will always be remembered by those who were close to him and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends. We will never forget him.

Lieutenant George Seal-Coon, Platoon Commander 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private ‘Fozzy’ Foster was a beacon for the platoon: his courage, character and sense of humour made him a close friend to those around him. At all times, he carried out his tasks, with the highest professionalism and great personal strength, making him ever steadfast amongst his team. His highest quality was his loyalty, to his platoon, section but above all his friends. He will be sorely missed.

Sergeant ‘Woody’ Woodrow, Platoon Sergeant, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private ‘Foster Child’ was a fun loving, hilariously funny and enthusiastic young soldier. He was one of the true characters within the platoon and a very competent and dependable operator. He was a true team player that was loved and will be truly missed by all.

Lance Corporal Stevie Veal, Section Commander, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Fozzy as he was known by all will be remembered for never turning a dare down. He was up for anything and kept the comedy value of the section up when it was most needed. He was a model for the British Army. It was a privilege to serve with him and we will never forget him.

Private Aaron ‘Ronnie’ Barker, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Foster was a very funny member of 7 Platoon and will be missed a lot. I remember the first time I met him. It was at the ranges, after a long day shouting, we went to sleep, only to be woken by more shouting. It was Foster sleep-talking. He will be missed a lot by me because he was hard working, down to earth and just a likeable guy who got on with everyone. You will be missed a lot by the whole of 7 Platoon and the Company. Rest in peace mate, my thoughts are with your family.

Robert’s family said:

To us Robert was the most wonderful son; he was the life and soul of the party and had a very loving and caring nature. His family and friends now feel a very big gap in their lives. The only consolation is that he died doing the job he loved. We have been overwhelmed by the love and the support we have been shown by everyone since we received this heartbreaking news.His sister Lauren says he was a great brother: He always looked out for me, even though he was younger. I’m so very proud of him and always will be.

Our thoughts are also with the other families affected by this tragedy and we pray for a full recovery for the two injured soldiers.

Private John Thrumble

Private Thrumble, aged 21, from Chelmsford, enlisted into the British Army in April 2004 and joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment in July 2005 after completing his training as a rifleman at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick. In the same year he completed a tour with the Battalion in Iraq, on Operation Telic 6, where he served with distinction. He had recently participated in exercises in the UK, Canada and Kenya.

Private Thrumble (All rights reserved.)
Private John Thrumble (All rights reserved.)

As a machine gunner in 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company Private Thrumble had been serving in Helmand Province in Afghanistan since March 2007. During this time he had been involved in numerous, close quarter engagements with the enemy where he had proven himself to be a brave, tenacious and steadfast soldier who would not yield irrespective of the circumstances - in a fight he was always there for his mates.

Private Thrumble was a unique character, known by all within B (Suffolk) Company for his quirky sense of humour and unshakably high morale. He had the rare ability to ‘light up’ any situation with a well timed, good humoured remark or gesture that would always raise the morale of his fellow soldiers. A kind-hearted and sincere soldier, he had developed into a highly competent and professional infantryman who loved his job and Army life; he revelled in the operational challenges of service in Afghanistan. He talked enthusiastically of the upcoming promotion course where he aspired to succeed and gain promotion to Lance Corporal. Sadly his significant potential will go unrealised.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, said:

Private John Thrumble was one of the mainstays and leading characters within the Battalion. An inspirational model to others and a caring and compassionate friend to many, he will be sorely missed. Proven in combat on countless occasions - his raw courage and ability to raise a smile were invaluable in these testing times. He joins the ranks of his fellow fallen Vikings but his reputation will live on and he will never be forgotten. The most sincere condolences of the entire Battalion are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

Major Tony Borgnis, Officer Commanding B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private Thrumble was one of the B Company characters. He was utterly dedicated to his job and in particular, fiercely loyal to his platoon and protective of his friends. This attitude was shown countless times during operations, where he was frequently under heavy enemy fire. His courage and professionalism were always evident during the most demanding periods, where he was often a ‘rock’ for the younger members of the platoon. His loss is felt deeply throughout the Company, he will be sorely missed. All our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.

Lieutenant George Seal-Coon, Officer Commanding 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private John Thrumble was a stalwart member of 7 Platoon. He was always professional, taking great care in all aspects of his work. He was courageous and determined, proving himself on numerous occasions. He was an inspiration and a friend to all, putting the welfare of others before his own and showing compassion at all times. His sense of humour, high morale and character set him apart as a great soldier and a great friend. He will not be forgotten.

Sergeant ‘Woody’ Woodrow, Platoon Sergeant, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Private ‘Mumbles’ was a true character within the platoon, with a great outlook on life. He was a real team player with a heart of gold. We will miss him deeply and he will never be forgotten.

Lance Corporal Stevie Veal, Section Commander, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

Thrumble was a very strong member of the section. Being the most senior private, he will be remembered for his random sense of humour which most of the time only he could understand. But still he always managed to raise a smile on anyone’s face in the worst of times.

Private Aaron ‘Ronnie’ Barker, 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company, said:

John was the joker of the platoon and even the Company, and always managed to make you laugh whatever the circumstances. Although he was hard as nails, he had a soft side to him which most people did not know. He had some ambition and wanted to stay in the Army and work his way up through the ranks. My thoughts are now with his family, his brothers and his girlfriend who he loved very much. Rest in peace. I am going to miss you very much, mate.

Mr Stephen Thrumble, Private John Thrumble’s father, said:

John was well known and well loved by all that knew him; he leaves behind parents Stephen and Pearl and a younger brother Luke and foster brother Semicjan Dalti. Although John loved his family dearly he had become attached to his second family, B Company, ‘the Vikings’, and was proud to serve alongside the friends he had made on the way. All the family are very proud of John and what he had achieved on the way whilst with the Vikings.

Poem from Mum Pearl Thrumble:

Our son the soldier, how great a man he must be To be joined in the fight to set another world free Our son the soldier, so very proud of you we are To all of us who love you, you will always be a shining star Our son the soldier so far away from home in a foreign place Just close your eyes to see a familiar smiling face Our son the soldier so very far away We will be waiting with open arms on your coming home day.”

Defence Secretary Des Browne said:

It is with profound sadness that I learnt of the deaths of Privates John Thrumble, Aaron McClure and Robert Foster of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan. Although it appears that their deaths are the result of a tragic incident involving allied forces, it is important to remember that they died participating in an operation vital to the security of the British and Afghan people. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the families, friends and colleagues of those killed or injured at this most difficult of times.

“The investigation which has now begun will be thorough and undertaken with the utmost urgency.”

Brigadier John Lorimer, Commander Task Force Helmand, said:

I am extremely saddened by the death of three soldiers from Task Force Helmand in what we believe to be a tragic accident.

The death or injury of every solider affects us all deeply. But as professionals we must carry on with the job in hand - fighting a determined, cunning and cruel enemy with the clear goal of bringing peace, security and stability to Afghanistan on behalf of its Government.

We continue to work very closely with US Forces in Helmand and their contribution is instrumental to the success of our joint mission. Our track record speaks for itself - our partnership is highly effective and we have the insurgency on the back foot. This incident is all the more devastating because on numerous occasions, bombs dropped by US aircraft have saved the lives of British troops on the ground.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the soldiers killed or injured at this deeply distressing time.