Operations in Afghanistan

Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe, both of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3 YORKS), were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday 15 September 2012.

Ministry of Defence crest
Sergeant Gareth Thursby (left) and Private Thomas James Wroe (All rights reserved.)
Sergeant Gareth Thursby (left) and Private Thomas James Wroe (All rights reserved.)

The two men were shot and fatally wounded by a rogue Afghan Local Policeman in Checkpoint Tora in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

Both men served proudly and in the highest traditions of The Yorkshire Regiment. They will never be forgotten.

Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said:

I was saddened to hear of this cowardly act by a man wearing an Afghan Local Police uniform, which has taken the lives of two brave British soldiers.

All of our thoughts are with the families of Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe. They gave their lives protecting Britain’s national security, helping to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for international terrorism.

Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment

Sergeant Gareth Thursby (All rights reserved.)
Sergeant Gareth Thursby (All rights reserved.)

Sergeant Gareth David Thursby was born on the 21 September 1982. He attended South Craven School in Skipton before joining the British Army on 3 August 1999. After completing his training in early 2000, he joined 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. His first deployment was to Kosovo in 2003 followed by Iraq in 2005. He passed the Section Commander’s Battle Course to qualify for a posting to the Army Training Regiment in Pirbright as an instructor. Subsequently, he returned to 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a section commander. In October 2010 he was promoted to sergeant and assumed his role as a platoon sergeant in Alma Company.

Sergeant Thursby was deeply respected by all that worked with him and all that knew him. His professionalism and strength of character were his hallmark, as was his commitment to his men. His unswerving loyalty, moral courage and sense of duty were an example to all. He was 29 years old and is survived by his wife, Louise, and two children, Joshua and Ruby.

Sgt Thursby’s wife, Louise, paid the following tribute to him:

Gareth was the love of my life. He was an amazing husband and father, happy, full of life and kind hearted with a passion for his work and family. He was brave, hardworking, a loving husband who was a devoted father to his children. Our Hero.

Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning MBE, Commanding Officer, 3 YORKS, said:

We have lost one of our finest, Sergeant Gareth Thursby. His nickname ‘Bull’ epitomised everything; he was strong, confident and unbelievably robust. He was admired and deeply respected by his soldiers and peers for his soldiering skills, physical strength and forthright honesty. Utterly professional, his standards were legendary.

Having been his Company Commander and now Commanding Officer, I know just how committed to soldiering he was. However, against the hard exterior there was a caring and most compassionate leader. I heard just a few weeks ago that he had told his Platoon to call him ‘Dad’ during the tour. That is how he saw himself; a father figure for 30 men and women involved in gruelling operations in Helmand. On the very few nights where he was not on patrol, but his men were, Sergeant Thursby would remain alert and awake until all his men returned safely.

When there were dangerous moments, it was always Sergeant Thursby who could be found at the front, offering steadying words to his Platoon Commander and the young soldiers. Such dedication and indeed selfless love for his fellow soldiers is remarkable and testament to the qualities of this unique man.

Our thoughts today though are firmly with his wife, Louise, and his two wonderful children, Joshua and Ruby, who I know he loved and cared so much for.

Major Finlay Bibby, Officer Commanding Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant Thursby was an inspiring man. His physical stature, extreme professionalism and uncomplicated outlook on life demanded respect, which is exactly what he got from his soldiers. He led from the front and set an example that could not be ignored. He was able to blend strong leadership with a genuine compassion for his men who adored him and referred to him as ‘Dad’. More importantly than being a superb soldier he was a devoted father and husband. The thoughts and prayers of Alma Company are with his wife, Louise, and his children, Joshua and Ruby. Sergeant Thursby’s broad smile and indomitable spirit will be greatly missed.

Captain Tom Flecchia, Second in Command, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant Thursby was a good man and a good soldier. I have worked with him for the past three years and what I admired the most about him was his professionalism. He was the epitome of what a Platoon Sergeant should be. A rock and a leader for his men, he really did lead by example and personally set the standards. He was always there for whoever needed his support. I will miss the way he approached life with an easy grin and sense of humour. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Second Lieutenant Callum Cameron, Officer Commanding 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Every Platoon Commander suffers varying degrees of trepidation when meeting their Platoon Sergeant for the first time. However, when I first met Sergeant Thursby in Patrol Base 1, within the first minute we were sitting down sharing a cigarette and talking through the lads in the checkpoint. That was Sergeant Thursby, down to earth, friendly and uncompromisingly professional with it. This man, in one stroke, embodied The Yorkshire Regiment.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Darren Szymanski, 3 YORKS, said:

One of life’s true characters, Sergeant Gareth Thursby was a devoted father and husband who was respected and admired by all that knew him. Always leading from the front, with a style that was uniquely his own, which never failed to inspire all those that served alongside him. Gareth was a great man, father, husband, friend and role model to all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Duncan Wyeth, Company Sergeant Major, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Gaz Thursby, if there was one word to sum up this Yorkshire Warrior, it would bestrong, physically strong. But one word doesn’t sum you up. You were also loyal, fiercely proud of your Platoon, highly dependable and also caring, compassionate and always thinking about your men. Most importantly you treasured your wife and children who you spoke about often and couldn’t wait to get home to at the end of the working day. I will miss you Gaz.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew Roper, Operations Warrant Officer, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant ‘Gaz’ Thursby was an outstanding soldier and friend, who always put both work and family before his own needs. A devoted husband, a loving father to two wonderful children, and an incredibly professional soldier, Gaz made every effort to know each and every one of his soldiers personally. This in turn allowed him to command his men with ease and confidence. Morals were never compromised with Gaz. He always stood by what he believed. His loss is a great blow to all the Battalion as he was such a personality and respected by all his peers and commanders. The strongest of soldiers, a true leader and mentor to so many.

Sergeant Lee Burrows, 5 Platoon Sergeant, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

I have known Gaz for many years, we first met whilst training for Kosovo back in 2002, he was a machine back then; big and strong. Gaz loved competition he would never back down. We would always try our hardest to beat each other over the finish line. If there is one thing Gaz loved more than the Army it was his wife and family; a love which had no limits. Gaz was a devoted father who showed his children Joshua and Ruby all the love and attention a father should. Gareth, my friend, you will be forever missed by your family and friends. All my love, big guy.

Sergeant Paul Lilley, Section Commander, Mortar Platoon, Somme Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Gaz, a true warrior, strong as an ox, loved his job and could always put a smile on your face. My heart goes out to his family and friends in these extremely difficult times. Rest in peace, you will never be forgotten.

Corporal Edward Elliott, Mortar Fire Controller, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant Thursby was initially with Burma Company when I first arrived at Belfast Barracks in Germany. He took me in to 5 Platoon and looked after me. Gaz was an outstanding bloke and an inspiration to his Platoon. I can honestly say he was one of the finest Platoon Sergeants I have ever worked with. My prayers are with his family and all of Alma Company will surely miss him.

Lance Corporal Paul Barrett, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant Thursby, or ‘Dad’ as he was called by the Platoon, looked after every one of us as soon as we joined. Everyone knew Gaz because of his size and enjoyment of the gym but also because of his huge personality. He was a well known, liked and loved character in the Battalion. One of my lasting memories of Gaz was that if you gave him a weak coffee with two sugars, he could achieve anything. Another would be of his fondness of his sleeping bag! It was a hard task getting him in there, but a greater job getting him back out! He enjoyed his time with 3 Platoon as he said so many times to me. He was looking forward to the next part of his career and even joked that 3 Platoon would be going with him.

Private Reece Noble, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Sergeant Gaz Thursby was the strongest man I have ever known. He was always up for a laugh and a joke with his men. When I first arrived with the Battalion nearly two years ago I didn’t know what to expect but he looked after me. He was a wonderful man. Sergeant Thursby was an outstanding Platoon Sergeant; always battling along no matter what happened and he was always there for his men. It was an absolute pleasure and a true honour to have known him. Rest in peace.

Private Gary Wright, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

I first met Sergeant Thursby in January 2010 in the Falkland Islands. I found he was full of morale. He was always working hard for the lads and had the respect of all his men. He became a father-like presence in the Platoon. He helped me through the difficult times and never stopped believing in me and for that I thank him. My thoughts go to his family and loved ones. He will always have a place as my Platoon Sergeant but also as a friend. Always in my thoughts.

Private Thomas James Wroe, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment

Private Thomas James Wroe (All rights reserved.)
Private Thomas James Wroe (All rights reserved.)

Private Thomas James Wroe was born in Huddersfield on 27th June 1994. He joined the British Army on 5th September 2010 and attended the Army Foundation College at Harrogate. On 11 November 2011 he completed his training and joined 3 YORKS. He was assigned to 3 Platoon, Alma Company as a Rifleman and completed demanding pre-deployment training, including qualifying as a Team Medic. Private Wroe spent several weeks working and training with the Battalion Rear Operations Group in the United Kingdom until he turned 18 years, deploying to join the rest of his Company on Operation HERRICK 16 on 1 July 2012. Private Wroe was an outstanding example of a Yorkshire Regiment soldier. Even in the short time he had been with his Company he had shown himself to be enthusiastic, articulate and highly capable. He followed a strong family tradition of service in the Battalion and already had aspirations to attend a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer cadre. His quick witted sense of humour made him popular with all. Private Wroe was 18 years old and is survived by his parents, Michael and Claire and sister Demi, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.

Thomas’s family paid this tribute:

Our son Thomas was a brave young soldier, who is loved by his family, girlfriend and friends. We can’t believe you have been taken so soon from us. You will always be in our hearts for ever and ever. You would light up the room with your smile and bubbly personality. Our world will be a duller place without you. We are so proud of you son, on all you achieved and we are grateful for every special thing you gave us. We will always love you Tom.

Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning MBE, Commanding Officer, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Tom Wroe had only been with us a few months, but in this short period he had made a significant impression on his fellow soldiers and commanders. Always eager and with unrelenting energy, he had pushed hard to join the Regiment inAfghanistan.

Arriving only some two months ago, his energy and professionalism quickly earned him the respect of his fellow team members. But it was his humour and character that really stood out. Whenever anyone asked how he was, his consistent reply was ‘always happy’. This phrase captured the young man Wroe was. On patrol his professional skills were impressively high given his relative inexperience. When back in the isolated checkpoint, his humour and vibrancy shone through and energised those around him.

His quick wit, love of Huddersfield Town Football Club, board games and genuine ‘can do nature’ made him a popular member of the team. He already had that unique quality of command presence that an Army requires; people looked to him for leadership in dangerous and difficult moments. I have no doubt he would have attended and passed our Junior Leader Course, way ahead of his time.

But today our thoughts are with his family, in particular his father, Michael, a fellow ‘Duke’ who has only just recently left our battalion. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his mother, Claire, sister, Demi and girlfriend, Jessica, who we know he loved so much.

Major Finlay Bibby, Officer Commanding Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Wroe made an immediate impression on joining Alma Company shortly before deploying to Afghanistan. His confidence, sense of humour and ever present smile made him hugely popular and fun to be with. Famously, he twice beat his Platoon Commander at Risk, a board game of military strategy, making him the ‘Baby General’. He was an extremely talented soldier who was fulfilling his dream by serving with the Battalion on operations, the same Battalion that his father served with. I have no doubt that Private Wroe would have achieved great things in the Army. Alma Company will miss him immensely and our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, Michael and Claire, sister, Demi, and his girlfriend, Jessica.

Captain Oliver Sparks, Battle Captain, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Wroe arrived at the Battalion as an incredibly keen and enthusiastic young soldier. He had come from a military family as his father had also been a ‘Duke’ and he was certainly keen to follow in his footsteps.

He impressed from the outset and threw himself into pre-tour training with an impressive vigour. Being only 17 he knew he would not deploy immediately with the Platoon but was constantly asking me to ensure that when he got out he would be with the rest of the boys. He had made friends very quickly which summed up what kind of a guy he was.

When he eventually got out to theatre I had handed over the Platoon and I could see him chomping at the bit to get down to the checkpoint with the guys. It is with great sadness that I did not get to command him on operations. He was certainly a soldier with great prospects for the future and it is an absolute tragedy that such a bright light has been extinguished at such a young age.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this incredibly difficult time.

Second Lieutenant Callum Cameron, Officer Commanding 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Wroe, despite being the youngest soldier in my Platoon, was the soldier whose career I most looked forward to. He always showed a level of professionalism in his soldiering at this early stage of his career that was on a par with the most experienced.

He perfectly embodied the confidence and undoubtedly cheeky wit of a Yorkshire soldier. His enthusiasm for his career, alongside his soldiering abilities, meant he was a young soldier every Platoon Commander would hope to have in his Platoon. He was the man to volunteer first for a task without even being asked, he was first to clean his rifle after a patrol and was first in with a joke.

Nothing encapsulated this more than the respect and standing he earned from his peers in the Platoon, despite his age. I seriously doubt that for the rest of my career I will be as impressed by a new soldier as I was by Private Wroe.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Darren Szymanski, 3 YORKS, said:

A young man with a promising career ahead of him, Private Wroe recently joined the Battalion and excelled as a Rifleman. Utterly reliable and trustworthy, he quickly settled in as part of a very tightly knit team. Popular and well respected by all, Private Wroe was the epitome of professionalism. His loss is sadly felt by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Duncan Wyeth, Company Sergeant Major, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Tom Wroe the son of my good friend Mick Wroe. Keen and full of energy, you were too young to deploy immediately but as soon as you turned 18 you fought to come to Alma Company and especially 3 Platoon. Always with a cheeky smile and never with your head down, I don’t think I have ever seen a young soldier with so many friends. Alma Company will never forget you, young warrior.

Lance Corporal Paul Barrett, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Wroe joined the 3 Platoon family a short while before we deployed on Operation Herrick 16. Even though he was the new guy he fitted in straight away, giving as good as he got from the lads. I couldn’t have asked for a better soldier. It was with sadness that he stayed behind in England for the first part of the tour. When he finally re-joined 3 Platoon out here he said, ‘I’ve finally made it!’ The smile on his face said it all; he was back with his brothers. Rest in peace, you will never be forgotten.

Lance Corporal Liam Tuite, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

I have not known Tom for a great deal of time but it was more than enough to call him a true friend. He stood tall and proud and loved his job. I was speaking to him in Camp Bastion before he deployed on the ground. He was saying how much he could not wait to get out there. I loved that and admired the fact that he was so enthusiastic and committed. He was loved by everyone he spoke to. He was always up for a laugh and a joke but serious and professional when he needed to be. He will be greatly missed by all. We thank you brother.

Lance Corporal Ian Young, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

I first met Tom when he arrived at 3 YORKS and moved into my corridor. I knew instantly we had got a special lad; smart, keen and always happy. I will always remember him having to wake me up on a morning and popping in on a night just to talk. I will miss you mate. You were a good lad and did us all proud. I’ll always think of you and you will still make me smile just like you did back then, so rest easy and I’ll see you again one day.

Private Dominic Hern, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Tom was a great friend and I am proud to say I was friends with him. Tom always had high morale and could always make me laugh, in and out of work. He loved his girlfriend, Jessica, with all of his heart, as she did him.

Tom couldn’t wait to come to 3 YORKS. All he wanted to do was to be a soldier and come to Afghanistan. Tom fought to be with 3 Platoon in Afghanistan and I am so glad he did in the end. Although he had just come to the Battalion, Tom knew everything, and really was a top soldier and a real Yorkshire Warrior.

Tom was also a big family man and was especially close to his sister, Demi. He was, and still is, a great friend, son, brother, boyfriend and a soldier. Tom has done his country, family, friends and Meltham so proud.

Private Christopher Hudson, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Wroe was one of the nicest lads I had ever met. Coming out to Afghanistan just after his 18th birthday, he always looked forward to going out on patrol. He was always happy, smiling and always lifted the mood. I spoke to Private Wroe about the Army and he told me his Dad was a ‘Duke’. He said he always wanted to be in the Infantry, which was obvious during Mission Specific Training and also out in Afghanistan due to the way he went about his job. I didn’t know Private Wroe that long but during the time I did know him he became a good, loyal friend who had an infectious smile. You will be missed pal and you will never be forgotten. Always in my thoughts.

Private Kyle Mitchell and Private Luke McLaren, Burma Company, 3 YORKS, said:

Private Tom Wroe was an inspirational lad. He was loved by everybody that knew him. He was so young, he wanted to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and join the Duke of Wellington’s. He dreamed of going on tour and was over the moon when he finally got out to Afghanistan. I have never seen anybody love the Army as much as Tom did. He died doing the job he loved and, although he is no longer with us, we will never forget him. Rest in peace, mate.

Published 15 September 2012