It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Rifleman Yubraj Rai of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles who was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday 4 November 2008.
Rifleman Rai was killed while taking part in a joint International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Forces operation against enemy forces south of Musa Qaleh.
While working alongside a fellow Gurkha, Rifleman Rai received a gunshot wound from enemy fire. He received medical treatment at the scene but died a short time later from his wounds.
Rifleman Yubraj Rai
Rifleman Rai, aged 28, came from the Khotang district in eastern Nepal. Following in the footsteps of his uncle, he joined the British Army in January 1999. On completion of his recruit training, he joined the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei.
In 2000, Rifleman Rai was posted to D (Gurkha Reinforcement) Company, the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, where he served with distinction for two-and-a-half years. His soldiering skills were widely recognised and his career was characterised by a number of successful operational tours including to Iraq on Operation TELIC 1, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and a previous tour in Afghanistan during Operation HERRICK 4.
Rifleman Rai was an avid sportsman who enjoyed all competition, but his real passion was for football, at which he represented B Company. This enthusiasm for the game extended to his support for Manchester United FC.
He was one of B Company’s more senior Riflemen. He acted as a mentor for the younger men in the Company, often impressing them with his fitness and stamina. Most recently he was employed as the Company storeman, where his attention to detail, care to ensure that the men received the correct administrative support, and constant diligence were immensely respected.
He had been eager to deploy back to Afghanistan, his selfless attitude once again coming to the fore when he volunteered to deploy with 5 Platoon to replace another rifleman who had fallen ill.
Rifleman Rai supported his mother, sister and three brothers as the family’s main earner. He will be missed dearly by his family and all who knew him.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Darby, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said:
Yubraj Rai was an extraordinary character and a hard professional soldier with a proven operational record. Having served his time as a driving force in 5 Platoon, he moved to a supporting role in Musa Qaleh, but it was typical of the man that he volunteered for a place on the operation in Dagyan when another member of his Company fell ill, and a measure of his professionalism that he did it so seamlessly.
Big, strong and highly experienced, Rfn Yubraj was one of the cornerstones of his Company and he was known throughout the Battalion for his presence, drive and his ability as a soldier. Part of a small and tight knit team he understood intuitively what needed to be done, how, when and by whom, and would move heaven and earth to ensure he got the support to his friends and comrades whatever the circumstances.
Yubraj was a proud Nepali, a proud soldier and was exceptionally proud of being a Gurkha Rifleman. He knew the dangers involved in becoming a soldier and understood better than most what it meant to go to war; this was one of his greatest strengths. He died doing what he did best, amongst his greatest friends and admirers and for a cause he had taken the time to understand. He was brave, strong, hard and noble; he epitomised all that makes the Gurkhas great - the best. I was proud to have known him; he will not be forgotten.
Major Ross Daines, Commander of B Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR), said:
Rifleman Yubraj Rai was a stalwart of B Coy 2 RGR. After six years as a member of a Rifle Platoon he volunteered to become the Company’s storeman, a job that requires great attention to detail and genuine concern for other soldiers. He was invariably the man working long hours to ensure that he could issue equipment in the best condition.
Rifleman Yubraj was a quiet man who I will always remember politely entering my office with a pile of forms requiring signatures. Once he got them he would smile shyly and walk purposefully away from the office. Not once in my year with B Company can I remember a bad word said against him. He was held in genuine affection by all.
Rifleman Yubraj died as he lived his life, selflessly and with great humility. After deployment to Musa Qaleh he volunteered to be a member of 5 Platoon, a job that involved frequent patrolling in dangerous areas. He chose this role when he could have easily avoided being so close to the action. This willingness to do the hard graft and share danger was his hallmark.
The death of Rifleman Yubraj is a great sadness and one that will not pass easily. He was a fine man and I miss him already.
Captain Dhyan Rai, Second in Command, B Company, said:
Rifleman Yubraj was one of the Company’s most dedicated men. He was completely trustworthy and reliable. He consistently set the example and he died in battle doing his job. It is a tragedy that he is not amongst us now, and he will be sorely missed by the whole Company.
Second Lieutenant Ollie Cochrane, Platoon Commander, said:
Rifleman Yubraj volunteered to return to 5 Platoon after three years as the B Company storeman. He was a trusted and well respected member of the platoon. He was liked by all, cheerful and always smiling cheekily. He was a great friend to all those who he worked with. He was an excellent soldier, uncomplaining and professional in all he did. He died at the front doing the job he loved, acting with bravery and courage. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.
Rifleman Yubraj was a truly outstanding Rifleman with an extraordinary personality. As the most senior Rifleman he never failed to set the example to the other Riflemen. He loved his job and performed extremely well in every aspect of it. He was highly respected by everyone in the company. His death will be felt by all of us, but the memory of his life will never fade. I extend my most heartfelt condolences to his family and pray that his soul may rest in peace in heaven; he will always remain in our hearts.
Lance Corporal Gajendra Rai and Lance Corporal Sunil Rai, who both served alongside Rifleman Rai, wrote:
Dear friend Yubraj, you are our best friend, we will never forget you. We used to go everywhere with you. We shared our thoughts no matter how difficult the days were. We are proud to have been your friend, you are the one who inspired us to be brave men like you. You were a really honest, punctual and gentle person. You know that we used to play football, basketball and swim together; you were a really good competitor. We always used to admire your playing style, which was fantastic. We will remember the day that we all spent the whole night talking about our futures, but you broke your promise, you have left us forever. But we are proud of you and what you did for us, your family and for the Queen. Thank you for being our very best friend, we will always remember you.
Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton MP, said:
I was very saddened to hear of the death of Rifleman Yubraj Rai. I am told he stood out as a selfless, tough and dependable soldier. These qualities marked him out very early in his career as an ideal candidate for service with D (Gurkha Reinforcement) Company. Clearly the loss of Rifleman Rai is sorely felt by all those who worked with him and I extend my condolences to his family, comrades and friends.