Operations in Afghanistan

Sergeant Lee Johnson of 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment killed in Afghanistan

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Sergeant Lee Johnson of 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) yesterday, Saturday 8 December 2007, in southern Afghanistan.

Ministry of Defence crest

Shortly before 1010 hours local time Sergeant Johnson was taking part in operations to recapture the town of Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province when an explosive device detonated - suspected to be a mine - resulting in the death of Sergeant Johnson and inflicting serious injuries to another soldier in the same vehicle.

Sergeant Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson was born on 7 June 1974 in Stockton-on-Tees and started his basic training on 30 July 1990. Upon completion of this he joined the 1st Battalion The Green Howards. He served in Canada, Germany, Belize and the United Kingdom, and deployed to the following theatres: Northern Ireland 5 times, the former Yugoslavia once and twice to Afghanistan.

Sergeant Lee Johnson, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (All rights reserved.)

Sergeant Lee Johnson, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (All rights reserved.)

Sergeant Johnson joined B Company as a new recruit and served virtually his whole career in that company. It was fitting that when recently promoted to the rank of sergeant and appointed Platoon Sergeant, it was in B Company. An accomplished sportsman, he represented the Battalion at boxing and the Army at Judo.

Sergeant Johnson was serving with 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a member of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, tasked with training the Afghan National Army, when he died.

Lt Col Simon Downey MBE, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment said:

Sergeant “Judo Jonno” Johnson was one of life’s great gems. A huge personality and a supreme soldier, he had a zest for life that took all before him. Energetic, deeply professional, warm and encouraging, he could get the best from anyone by inspiration, by his unfailing humour, by his example and his sheer determination.

“It was typical that he died taking charge of a difficult situation and driving it on. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he made a difference, and always with that great style of his. His loss robs the Battalion he loved of one of its great lights, a comrade regarded with tremendous affection and respect; but he, of all of us, would not have had us falter.

Our thoughts and our prayers are with his brother, LCpl Johnson currently serving with the Battalion in Afghanistan and his family and loved ones at this terrible time.

Maj James Bryden, Officer Commanding A Company 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment said:

On the recent Kajaki Relief in Place flight I flew back with Sergeant Johnson as he was due Rest and Recuperation Leave. He described his time in Kajaki as a Platoon Sergeant as the best 2 months in his army career.

“He had clearly developed an outstanding rapport with the Afghan National Army Soldiers that, with his Platoon Commander, he led through many fights. In addition and of note he had an excellent professional reputation with C Company 40 Commando.

The measure of the man is that on arrival back at Camp Shorabak he cancelled his planned leave to go to Musa Qaleh with his Company.

Maj Duncan Manning, Officer Commanding C Company 40 Commando said”

Sergeant Johnson served with C Company 40 Commando in Kajaki for the vast majority of his Op HERRICK Tour and was very much an active and popular member of the Company Group. An accomplished professional he was able to adapt quickly to the demands of the Kajaki area and demonstrated considerable tact diplomacy and humour when dealing with adversity.

“Always calm under pressure his most endearing characteristic was his enthusiasm and dedication to all tasks. He mixed well with all Royal Marine ranks throughout his time in Kajaki and will be missed by everyone.”

Warrant Officer 1 RSM Hind, Regimental Sergeant Major of 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment said:

It is with great sadness that I have to write about Sergeant Johnson. I first met the then Corporal Johnson when I arrived at the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. It struck me straight away that this enthusiastic, professional and without a shadow of doubt the keenest Junior Non Commissioned Officer in the Battalion was a soldier to watch.

“I had a smile on my face like a Cheshire cat the day he was promoted and was then welcomed into the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess.

Any soldier or officer who is reading this and has had the privilege of working with Sergeant Johnson will know that it is by no way an exaggeration that I can safely say that Sergeant Johnson was a fine soldier. He was liked and respected by everyone and seemed to have boundless amounts of energy and tenacity. He was an absolute professional.

“As Regimental Sergeant Major you are meant to be impartial. I will have to confess, that Sergeant Johnson was a favourite of mine, because he was one of the finest soldiers that I have met and was the iconic Infantry Platoon Sergeant.”

CSgt Elsdon YORKS, CQMS Sp Company 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment said:

I have known Lee ‘Mad Dog’ Johnson for 15 years, he was an excellent soldier and friend. The keenest soldier I have ever met, he was utterly dedicated to the Army, the Green Howards, but most of all to his family and fiancee Lisa, young daughter Lilly and son Ashley.

“Never daunted by a challenge he was always the first to offer a hand to a friend or colleague in need. He was great company and as a close friend we spent a great deal of time together both at work and during leave. Socially he was the life and soul of any party and his larger than life character always made him an amusing centre of attention.

“As a soldier he was the best and you would always want him at your side, due to his absolute professionalism and outright ability. With him around you always felt safe and that nothing could go wrong. As a sportsman he excelled in Judo hence one of his nicknames was ‘Judo Jonno’. And in boxing what he lacked in talent he made up for with courage and determination.

“I will always admire Jonno and he will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. I am glad to have known him and I know he would have been a friend for life. I feel honoured to have served alongside him and privileged to have been his friend.”

Defence Secretary Des Browne, currently in Afghanistan said:

Sergeant Johnson demonstrated the qualities of a fine soldier, a respected, dedicated professional who brought enthusiasm and humour to his work. He will be much missed by those with whom he served. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this most difficult time.

Sgt Johnson’s sister Cassandra said:

I can’t believe that I have lost my brother. A boy who was 16 and a half years old crying the night before he went into the Green Howards scared to leave home. But after 18 years of serving his country has now lost his life fighting for what he thought was right. I am so proud of him. In mine and my family’s eyes he is a hero. He went into the army a little boy and came out as a man, a man and father, brother to be proud of.

“His life was not wasted. Lee lived life to the full he loved a drink, he loved a laugh, he thought the world of his fiancee Lisa and son Ashley and most of all his daughter Lilly Rose, who still thinks that her daddy is coming home for her 3rd birthday in February.

“This is such a loss to our family we cannot believe that our brother, my mam and dad’s son is gone. Lee took so many chances in life we never ever thought that his luck would run out.

“I hope we give Lee the best funeral a person could ever have and remember him as the joker he was. Lee was a true soldier, it was his life. He always put 100 per cent into his job motivating others. He also put just as much effort in having a pint as well.

“I will always remember the last party, we were all at my wedding the last family reception and Lee as usual was the life and soul of the party and what made it so special was that we both said we loved each other, I will never forget that moment.

“And that is how I will remember my brother a happy lad full of fun, a loving brother who would be there for all his family. A proud father and a loving son who worshipped his mum and dad. We are just glad that his brother Don is with him and can bring him home to us.”

Sgt Johnson’s fiancee Lisa said:

My Lee lived for the army and his family. He was a soldier first and a father and fiance second. He loved his job, it’s all he talked about. I didn’t mind though, it’s part of the reason I loved him. Our wedding was planned for 1 August and we were so excited and happy. He had everything to look forward to.

“He said being with his family was what was going to get him through his 6 month tour. He told me his leave was cancelled earlier this month but I knew he had offered to stay and take part in this operation against the Taliban. That’s what made him the soldier he was, dedicated, professional and always in the thick of it. He leaves behind his son Ashley and 2 and a half year old daughter Lilly. They had made so many plans to go camping and fishing together when he returned.

I promise I will do these things with them in his memory. I love you so much Lee, only you and I know the real story. I don’t know how I will get through life without you. You are my whole world, you and the kids are my life. I will love you always.

Published 9 December 2007