It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed the deaths of Sergeant Stuart Millar and Private Kevin Elliott of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS).
The soldiers were killed as a result of an explosion believed to have been caused by a rocket-propelled grenade when they were attacked by insurgents whilst patrolling on foot in Babaji district, Helmand province, on the morning of Monday 31 August 2009.
Sergeant Stuart ‘Gus’ Millar
Sergeant Stuart ‘Gus’ Millar, aged 40 from Inverness, joined the British Army in November 2000, after service in the Territorial Army.
Following training he joined the Mortar Platoon of 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers. He served in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus and Iraq. He moved to The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, as a mortar fire controller in Belfast in July 2007 and deployed to Afghanistan in April 2009.
Sergeant Millar’s family said:
Gus always wanted to be a soldier from a very young age. He passionately enjoyed his job and often talked fondly about his colleagues and friends.
He was very brave and is a credit to both our family and the Army. We are really proud of him as a father, son, brother and soldier.
Gus loved his family dearly and he was always full of fun and always brought happiness into our days. With a huge heart, he touched many lives, and will be missed by everyone and remembered forever.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer, 3 SCOTS, said:
I have been fortunate to know Sgt Gus Millar for many years and we have shared many happy moments, not least dragging ourselves over the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glencoe some eight years ago. He was one of a very select few characters in the battalion that I could sound out for ‘ground truth’, due to his friendship, honesty, integrity and humour.
Sgt Gus Millar was a dedicated and professional Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. A career mortarman, he loved his job, and during this tour had been able to put all his experience and years of training to the ultimate test in the most demanding of environments. He was a wonderfully kind and dependable man: the solid rock amongst the shingle. He had a remarkable sense of duty and has been the continuity in the development of the mortar platoon over the years.
In his role as a mortar fire controller, he was at the very front of the action throughout the summer, famously being caught on the ITN news on the first day of Op PANTHER’S CLAW, complaining that a long fire fight with the insurgents had delayed his ‘morning brew’. It was typical of the man: in the thick of the action, professional expertise to the fore, combined with his wonderfully positive and humorous style. But he had a bite when required, and the Jocks knew not to cross the line.
He had a truly wonderful sense of humour and it is this facet of this great man that we will all miss the most.
He has given his life in the service of his comrades, for the Royal Regiment of Scotland, his country and the people of Afghanistan. We all consider ourselves truly privileged to have known him, to have served with him.
He was 40 years young and married his wife Jillian last year. They have a very young and beautiful daughter, Grace. He showed a recent picture of them to the padre, beamed with pride and tucked it into his notebook, minutes before he deployed on this operation. All our deepest thoughts and prayers are with Jillian and Grace as well as Gus’ family and friends at this most tragic time.
Whilst the pain of this loss to them is unimaginable I hope they will draw considerable strength from the fact that we all will cherish some wonderful memories of the humorous rock that Gus was. We will all miss him terribly.
Major Matt Munro, Officer Commanding, Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said:
Sgt Gus Millar will be remembered by his brother soldiers in Alpha (Grenadier) Company as an outstanding soldier and also as a caring friend and a devoted family man. He was great company; we loved his Glaswegian patter as it was guaranteed to raise a smile in even the most trying of circumstances. Gus was an awesome soldier; brave, technically capable, energetic and self-disciplined. He was quite simply a wonderful example to us all.
Though we will mourn him and miss him terribly our loss is nothing compared to that which his family is suffering; they are in our thoughts and prayers.
Rest in Peace. Nemo me impune lacessit.
Major Jez Sharpe, Battery Commander, 38 (Seringapatam) Battery, said:
Sgt Gus Millar was as key a figure in the Battery Tactical Group as he was in the battalion. Sergeant Millar had worked with us consistently over the last year-and-a-half and his exceptionally dry sense of humour and willingness to pass on his vast experience made him hugely liked and respected by everyone in the battery - he will be greatly missed. All our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and daughter.
Captain David Mack, Officer Commanding of the Mortar Platoon, said:
Sergeant Gus Millar was renowned throughout the battalion as an irrepressible, jovial and proud character. Through time spent in Fort George and numerous exercises in Otterburn, Kenya and Salisbury Plain it has been my joy to come to know this great and wonderful man.
Gus was a professional soldier whose judgement could be trusted without hesitation. An accomplished and inspiring man, Gus possessed remarkable potential. Moreover, he was a courageous man who volunteered for any opportunity to go onto the ground. Once deployed, more often than not, Gus would manoeuvre himself to the forefront of a fight.
He was confident and proud of himself and the men of the Mortar Platoon. Keen to prove the effectiveness of the men he had trained, Gus was the first mortar fire controller of the battalion to engage a target.
Ever enthusiastic to launch his beloved mortars, his booming voice monopolised the net as he took any and every opportunity to call in fire; his tempestuous personality only occasionally requiring reining in.
Gus was a genuine man who was honest and forthright. He was an outspoken and opinionated individual for whom subtlety was a skill yet to be mastered - if he did not like something he would make it clear to any and all. Blunt and to the point, Gus was never frightened to air his thoughts regardless of the company. He wore his heart on his sleeve such that one was never in doubt of where he stood with Gus.
Despite his often strong and uncompromising stance, Gus was also a charming, outgoing and charismatic figure. He was a natural leader whose welcoming nature drew others into his company. He set the standard for the Jocks, but had the ability to empathise with those under his command - often taking the role of a big brother.
Renowned for his sense of humour, Gus could be relied on to offer a smile or comic relief even in the most demanding situations. His presence alone brought morale and strength to all.
Although he was in his element in the Army and serving in Afghanistan, he nonetheless possessed those qualities that define a man - he could be gentle and loving, and his heart was squarely focused on his wife, Jillian, and daughter, Grace, at home.
It has been my honour to serve with Gus and to consider him my friend. I will deeply treasure the time I spent with him and will sorely miss him.
Captain James Banks, Fire Support Team Commander, Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said:
Gus Millar was a soldier of the highest calibre. Not only was he a technically superb mortar fire controller but also a hard working and dedicated Senior NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer].
He was an extremely grounded gentleman, happy at engaging the enemy with devastating effect or taking pride in the design and construction of ablutions for his fellow soldiers. Gus had the presence of a fearsome soldier but the heart of a caring father.
His ever present smile and sense of humour will be greatly missed. Whether it was complaining about missing his tea on the News at Ten, whilst under contact, or making fun of everybody, his wit was legendary. Sgt Gus Millar was a one-off, he will be sorely missed. He will never be forgotten.
Captain Ben Collis, Adjutant and a former Mortar Platoon Commander, said:
Sgt Gus Millar joined us in July 2007 when we were reforming the Mortar Platoon following a Northern Ireland tour. We badly needed experienced mortarmen and Gus Millar arrived, like a tidal wave - he was passionate about his job. He enthused a generation of young Jocks in the platoon and was trusted absolutely by everyone.
He made a point of mentoring his Junior NCOs, though he would not hesitate to step in if he thought grip was required. It was impossible not to like the man; he had a dry, sophisticated wit and was in every way a gentle giant. Working with him was enormous fun; he will be hugely missed.
Sergeant Syd Masson, long-time friend, comrade and Mortar Section Commander, said:
Anyone that ever met Gus Millar will always remember him, he was a larger than life character that filled a room with his presence; he was an individual of overwhelming ability as a soldier, he graced the lives of everyone who encountered him.
A loyal and trusted comrade but above all a true friend, he leaves behind a hole that can never be filled. My heart goes out to Jillian and little Gracie whose loss far outweighs anything that we may be experiencing at this devastating time.
Captain Samuel Newson, Second-in-Command, Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said:
Gus was the oldest man in the company and it sometimes felt as if someone had brought their Granddad along, albeit a Granddad who could move around the battlefield at alarming pace and co-ordinate fire missions at the same time.
The paternal aspect to Gus was in reality due to his irrepressible good humour and the reassuring calm which he brought to any situation.
He took great pride in his job and revelled in a fire mission successfully executed but always in a professional and understated manner. He had been with the company since Kenya and contributed so much on so many levels, as irreplaceable as he was irrepressible he leaves a huge void in the company.
Warrant Officer Class Two Callum Scott, Second-in-Command of the Mortar Platoon, said:
Sgt Gus Millar was a larger than life character in the Mortar Platoon and within the Battle Group as a whole. He had a strong personality and inspired others with his diligent approach to any task. He will be remembered for his honesty, integrity, knowledge and courage.
He was always the first to volunteer and inspired others to follow suit. If he felt something was amiss or needed rectifying he was not afraid to raise his concerns regardless of who he was addressing. He could always be relied upon to carry out any task to the highest standards, never taking the easy option.
His knowledge of mortaring was second-to-none which allowed him to provide effective support to whoever required it.
He was always to be found where the action was. He understood that in order to provide the best support to the troops he had to be in a position to observe what was going on. This meant that he was always to be found in the heart of the battle doing what he did best, calling in mortar fire. He was an inspiration to others as they knew that if they were in trouble they could rely on Gus to help.
Sergeant Gordon Porter, Mortar Fire Controller, said:
To all who knew Gus he was a larger than life character and his passing will leave a huge void in those who were closest to him. He was a friend to all and never let anyone pass him by. He was always chatting to someone, usually at great length, regardless of who they were.
He was a diligent, professional, and enthusiastic soldier. He had immense moral courage and would always fight his corner regardless of who the disagreement was with. His enthusiasm would rub off on his soldiers as well and he would often push them beyond the limits they believed they were capable of. He always gave 100% and expected no less from his subordinates and indeed his peers.
Sergeant Ross McBride, Forward Air Controller, Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said:
Gus was a popular member of the team, a professional at every level who loved doing his job and loved his family fiercely; he was often the first person to make light of a bad situation and then call in accurate mortar fire when required; a high calibre SNCO [Senior Non-Commissioned Officer] who will be sorely missed by all, my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.
EMERALD 51A end of mission rest!
Corporal Dave Muirhead, Mortar Command Post Operator, said:
Gus was a fun-loving character with a witty sense of humour. He was very much a soldier in every sense of the word and always strived to be the best at whatever he did. He was regarded as a strong leader, certainly amongst the soldiers within the platoon. Not only was he a pleasure to work with, he was the perfect role model who never suffered fools gladly.
During his time in Afghanistan he excelled doing a job he loved. His enthusiasm reflected on all who had the privilege of serving alongside him. Gus had a real love of his previous battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, of which we were often reminded. However, he also demonstrated a great passion and love for the Black Watch Battalion. Although most believed he just had a real passion for soldiering.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that we have to say goodbye to one of the finest to have served within the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and closest friends at this sad and difficult time, more so with his wife Jillian and his young daughter Grace who he adored with all his heart.
NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT.
Private Kevin Elliott
Private Kevin Elliott, aged 24 from Dundee, of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, attended Braeview Academy in Dundee where he was a keen boxer and footballer. He joined the Army in 2002.
After basic training he was posted to Bravo Company, later moving to Charlie (Fire Support) Company. He had previously served in Iraq and Northern Ireland.
Private Elliott’s family said:
Kevin was a loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle and cousin who will be sorely missed by the whole family.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer, 3 SCOTS, said:
Pte Elliott was an awesome fighting Jock, who was very much in his comfort zone here on demanding operations in Afghanistan. He lived his life one day at a time and it is fair to say that he did not especially enjoy ‘peacetime soldiering’ - like many a Jock that has gone before, he was a lovable rogue.
He was on the verge of leaving the Army earlier this year, but his inclination to be in the thick of the action was too tempting and he caught the last transport to Afghanistan with his mates. He loved operations and he was a big team player.
“It was no surprise to hear that in this tragic incident he was the first man on the roof in the defensive position, the first to volunteer to protect his colleagues in a dangerous area. That sums up the man; he took life seriously when it was important to do so, and he was a first class field soldier as a result. He would never let his friends down.
Pte Elliott’s loss will be hard to accept by all who knew him well. We will not forget his sacrifice, giving his life protecting his friends, representing his regiment and his country, and so that the people of Afghanistan might have a better future.
We offer our deepest thoughts and condolences to his family and friends and that they might gain some strength that he has died in the service of others, doing a professional job that he loved.
Captain Harry Gladstone, Fire Support Group Commander, said:
Pte Kev Elliott was a unique soldier. He was excellent in the field and had a brilliant sense of humour. He was naturally fit and most importantly he was very loyal to his friends. Pte Elliott died in tragic circumstances doing what he loved.
I remember talking to him shortly before we left Inverness to deploy to Afghanistan in March. He was dressed in his civilian clothes, having been de-kitted, and about to walk out of Fort George back to civilian life when he decided to sign back on. When asked why he decided to sign back on he simply said ‘I didn’t want to miss the boys’. This comment sums up his attitude to the Army.
“My last memory of him is seeing him overjoyed having heard that he had been chosen to go as part of a Javelin Detachment to support A Company, rather than sitting in camp.
The guy loved having fun, and lived life to the full. He leaves two brothers Craig and Thomas, and his two sisters Natasha and Kirsty. Our thoughts are also with his mum Maggie and his grandmother Margaret. We remember him for his sense of humour and all that he contributed to battalion life.
Warrant Officer Class Two Andy Lambert, Company Sergeant Major, Charlie (Fire Support) Company, said:
Pte Elliott was every Company Sergeant Major’s nightmare in camp but a great soldier in the field on operations. Kev was partial to the odd beer or two in the UK and had an eye for the girls.
“Rest in Peace Kev, you have gone but will never be forgotten by the boys of Charlie Company.”
Private Peter Fenton, Fire Support Group gunner, said:
Kev was cheeky but you couldn’t get annoyed with him. He was always able to get a laugh in any situation. He would bend over backwards to make sure everyone was all right.
“He was hilarious, confident, loyal, and above all charming. His loss will leave a big hole in the platoon.”
Private Kyle Russell, Fire Support Group gunner, said:
A story typical of Kev was on having a room inspection in Fort George, the Platoon Sergeant opened the fridge to see it full of beer. He told Kev to get rid of it; Kev proceeded to drink the contents of the fridge in front of him and continued for the rest of the night.
“Kev was kind and generous - he lived for the moment. If you asked for a fag, he threw you a packet of twenty. He was a terrible singer but my fondest memory of him was sitting in the back of a vehicle screaming out the words to ‘I got you babe’ at the top of his voice.”
Lance Corporal Ian Bruce, Fire Support Group gunner, said:
Kev was a poser - he loved his body - but underneath he cared deeply about the other people in the platoon. He would try and wind people up but you couldn’t get annoyed with him, he was too nice. He wanted to be active the entire time.
“He loved being in Afghanistan and had booked a holiday to Australia for our return. He also wanted a pair of white socks to walk down Dundee High Street pulling the birds! We will all miss him badly.
NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT.
Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:
It was with deep regret that I learned of the deaths of Sergeant Stuart Millar and Private Kevin Elliot; their loss will be felt by all who knew them.
Listening to those who knew him, Sergeant Millar was an inspirational leader to his men as well as a loving and dedicated father. His wealth of experience and strength of character will be sorely missed by the Army and all who served with him.
Private Elliott was a brave soldier who lost his life while defending his colleagues. Those who served alongside him described him as a fun-loving and outgoing young man who thrived on the excitement and adventure of soldiering.
The loss of both of these fine soldiers is a grave loss to the Army and my thoughts are with their families and loved ones at this difficult time.