Operations in Afghanistan

Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton and Trooper Phillip Lawrence killed in Afghanistan

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton and Trooper Phillip Lawrence were killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan on Monday 27 July 2009.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton and Trooper Phillip Lawrence (All rights reserved.)
Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton and Trooper Phillip Lawrence (All rights reserved.)

Warrant Officer Class 2 Upton from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery was killed as a result of an explosion whilst conducting a foot patrol in Sangin district, Helmand province. He was serving as Second-in-Command of Sangin’s Police Mentoring Team.

Trooper Lawrence from The Light Dragoons died in an explosion whilst travelling in a Scimitar, or Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) [CVR(T)], as part of a patrol in Lashkar Gah district, Helmand province, while helping to ensure the security of an area cleared earlier as part of Operation PANCHAI PALANG. He had volunteered to step in to drive for another troop to fill a temporary manning gap when his vehicle was hit by an explosion, mortally wounding him.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton

WO2 Upton was born on 29 November 1973 in Nottinghamshire. He enlisted in the Army in June 1990. A career Royal Artillery weapon locator specialising in radar systems, he served operationally in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Bosnia, and previously in Afghanistan.

He was a natural leader and an intensely professional soldier who rose sharply through the ranks, quickly gaining trust from, and the confidence of, colleagues wherever he served.

At the start of Operation HERRICK 10 he commanded the Counter Fire elements at Kandahar Airfield, protecting it from insurgent rocket and mortar fire. It was the sort of job in which he revelled, needing a sharp technical intellect and a calm and decisive manner; he was yet again superbly effective.

On transfer to Sangin district, Helmand province, he approached his duty with the same energy and intelligent attention to detail that characterised his career.

WO2 Upton was one of the central figures that make 53 (Louisburg) Battery so effective. He was absolutely key to the life and ethos of the unit, whether on operations or at home.

Always approachable, and hugely capable, he inadvertently became a role model to a generation of junior soldiers. His character was self-effacing and generous, and he lived his life through an unimpeachable set of values.

Throughout the build-up to this tour WO2 Upton was always at the heart of training activity; cajoling and encouraging soldiers, and sometimes prodding the junior officers and imparting wisdom in the diplomatic and avuncular manner required, he seemed always to be in exactly the right place.

His popularity across the wider regiment marked him as a man whose company was always fun and who could be relied upon to deliver; he was consequently relied upon heavily, in particular by his Battery Commander and Battery Sergeant Major.

Despite all of his professional achievements, WO2 Upton remained a devoted family man and was hugely proud of his young family; he leaves behind his wife Karen and two children Hollie and Ewan.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton (All rights reserved.)
Warrant Officer Class 2 Sean Upton (All rights reserved.)

Lieutenant Colonel John Musgrave, Commanding Officer 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, said:

WO2 Sean Upton was a naturally gifted soldier, the complete professional, noted for his light touch in command and dedication to his soldiers. He specialised in the defeat of enemy rockets and mortars - an art he had practised in the Balkans, Iraq, and on both his Afghanistan tours, always remaining calm under fire, and decisive and effective in his response.

His rapid progression through the ranks was testimony to what would have been the brightest future in the Army. 5th Regiment has lost a truly dedicated and exemplary soldier and man, who was a role model to all he met and worked with; always living and working to the highest standards, but also always with a smile on his face and a ready laugh, true to his belief that soldiering should be a rewarding way of life.

He will be sorely missed by the soldiers of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery and by all in the Royal Artillery who had the privilege of knowing him and working alongside him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, particularly his wife Karen and his son Ewan and daughter Hollie.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Rifles Battle Group, said:

WO2 Upton was one of those outstanding British Army Sergeant Majors who volunteered for everything. It was his way to be in the mix and at the front and it did not matter whether it was work or play.

He has been brilliant at mentoring his Afghan comrades and did it with a perfect lightness of touch. He was adored by his Afghan policemen and that is a reflection of his qualities as a man and as a soldier.

He is sorely missed and yet, in this dark hour in the Battle Group, our first thoughts and prayers must be with his beloved wife and adored children who have lost their hero.

Major John Catto, Battery Commander, 53 (Louisburg) Battery Royal Artillery, said:

In the frenetic pace of regimental life, WO2 Upton was the hub that much of the battery revolved around. With a firm grip on his training role, and all the soldiers who passed through his office, he was unfailingly on top of whatever was thrown at him, no matter how short the notice or obscure the request.

He coupled this competence with a broad smile and biting sense of humour that could draw laughs from any situation. When all seemed overwhelming, there was always WO2 Upton to bring his sense of composure and perspective onto events. The battery’s loss, however great, is nothing to that of his family, and he will be sorely missed by all.

Major Ion Hill, Officer Commanding I Company, 2nd Battalion The Rifles Battle Group, said:

In the short time that I knew WO2 Upton he made a remarkable impression. It is a testament to his character and dedication that he volunteered to leave the relative quiet of Kandahar and fill a gap within the Police Mentoring Team in Sangin district, Helmand province.

His professionalism as a soldier was evident to all and he rose to the challenge of commanding Afghan soldiers in the infantry role. Yet above all of this he stood out as a particularly human and unassuming Sergeant Major who cared deeply about the welfare of his soldiers. I will remember him for his selfless nature and benevolent sense of humour.

He developed a deep empathy with the members of the Afghan National Police who he was responsible for mentoring and they immediately warmed to him. A man of genuine integrity he soon won their trust and was responsible in part for the ever-increasing co-operation between the police and ourselves. They held him in very high regard; so much so that last week they attempted to present him with a young eagle as a token of their respect.

First and foremost WO2 Upton was a strong family man and he spoke often of them. Tonight his family are very much in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Captain Paul Harris, Operations Officer, 53 (Louisburg) Battery Royal Artillery, said:

WO2 Upton epitomised what it was to be a professional soldier. Fit, dedicated, competent and wearing a constant smile he approached every task with an abundance of energy and rigour that gained him a steadfast reputation throughout the gunner community.

He loved the Army and threw himself fully into every role whether that was the soul of discretion as the Officers’ Mess Manager, becoming the Battery Sergeant Major on one day’s notice, or single-handedly organising pre-deployment training for the battery’s simultaneous deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

WO2 Upton loved only his family more than the Army. His office and room were always adorned with their photos and he would regularly keep us abreast of how his children were doing at school. His thoughts were constantly with his family. His loss is keenly felt by all who knew him.

Captain Howard Hooper, Sergeant Adrian Meager and Corporal Scott Horn, part of the Operational Co-ordination Team attached to 2nd Battalion The Rifles Battle Group, said:

Sergeant Major Upton was our team’s ideal Second-in-Command whose humbleness and common touch reached across all backgrounds, ranks and nationalities; he so very quickly gained a solid rapport with the Afghan National Police and Army whom we worked with, and who were deeply saddened by his death.

My hope is that we all continue in his example of mentoring local Afghan security forces with such professionalism, compassion and energy.

Our team’s small size resulted in a family-like closeness and we have lost a great man whose sense of humour, genuine willingness to help others and loyal friendship was so sad to lose, yet truly admirable.

Most of all we remember our Sergeant Major as a loving and dedicated husband of Karen and father to Ewan and Hollie whom he regularly spoke of and clearly missed - our team’s thoughts and prayers are with them.

Lieutenant Ffreuer Whitaker, Troop Commander, 53 (Louisburg) Battery Royal Artillery, said:

WO2 Sean Upton was everything a Sergeant Major should be; a role model to his subordinates, a firm friend to his peers, and a source of advice and guidance to the junior officers.

WO2 Upton embodied loyalty. He genuinely cared for the well-being of the soldiers and took a personal interest in ensuring they were trained to the highest standard possible, while always presenting a robust, no nonsense front. He was a steadfast friend to many within the battery and wider regiment and could be relied upon, not least professionally, for frank advice, a cup of tea and a chat, or putting the world to rights over a beer.

WO2 Upton vested himself wholly in everything and will be missed tremendously in many ways. He spoke of Karen his wife and their two children frequently; it was profoundly obvious that he loved them deeply as they were never far from the surface of his thoughts - they are at the forefront of ours at this incredibly difficult time.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Pat Jeeves, Troop Sergeant Major, 53 (Louisburg) Battery Royal Artillery, said:

WO2 Sean Upton was an outstanding soldier and a close friend to all. His professionalism and determination shone, never faltering even when the cards seemed against him. He showed all the qualities of a good leader and he was respected by his superiors and peers alike.

Sean enjoyed the Army life and grasped challenges and opportunities with both hands. His dedication and loyalty to all those around him was endless and he was always there to help others even if it was putting him out. Sean was a truly genuine man making him extremely approachable, the sort of person who you knew you could rely on and would always put others first.

Sean was a fit soldier and although not dedicated to a specific sport would give anything a go and always give 100%, again a testimony to his character. Sean was a devoted husband to his wife Karen and the perfect caring father to his two children Ewan and Hollie who he leaves behind. Sean will be missed by all those who knew him and never be forgotten.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Wayne Gower, Troop Sergeant Major, 53 (Louisburg) Battery Royal Artillery, said:

Sean was not just a mate, he was a true friend. In the Army we have lots of mates, but friends can usually be counted on one hand. To be friends with Sean was a massive ‘prof’ - Sean was quality. A quality bloke, quality to be around, and a quality dry sense of humour to match.

Like me, Sean liked a drink, and like me wasn’t very good at it. Also like me, he used to like a crafty cigarette when we were out being rubbish drinkers. It was on these various nights out that it soon became obvious I’d met someone who could match me in my exceptional shyness in actually buying a pack. You didn’t need to be around Sean long to realise what a family man he was.

He loved ‘spinning dits’ about what the kids had got up to or what his plans were at the weekend for Karen and the kids. He was a caring guy, not just for his family and friends, but genuinely cared for the lads and lasses and, whether they knew it or not, he wanted the best for every single one of them. Sean it was an honour to know you, I will miss you friend. God bless.

Sergeant Andy Luckhurst, brother Gunner from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery and Radar Detachment Commander attached to 2nd Battalion The Rifles Battle Group, said:

It is hard to write about one person and sum up all their qualities when that person had so many. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sean Upton for many years and he was respected by his peers and subordinates alike. He had an infectious sense of humour and he was remembered by anybody who was fortunate enough to speak to him.

More than any other, the word ‘selfless’ comes to mind when talking about Sean. He was always more concerned about others than he was himself, whether that was his soldiers’ welfare or their careers. Sean’s open door policy offered his soldiers a compassionate and caring leader and will be irreplaceable within 53 Battery and 5 Regiment.

Sean was dedicated in all that he did, but none more so than spending time with his family. Sean leaves behind his wife Karen, son Ewan and daughter Hollie. All our thoughts are with them.

Trooper Phillip Lawrence (All rights reserved.)
Trooper Phillip Lawrence (All rights reserved.)

Trooper Phillip Lawrence

Tpr Lawrence, from Birkenhead, was born on 31 March 1987, and enlisted in the Army in July 2005. After completing recruit training in January 2006 he conducted his Royal Armoured Corps training in Bovington before joining The Light Dragoons.

Joining C Squadron from the outset, he deployed almost immediately on his first tour of Afghanistan in late 2006, where he quickly learnt his trade in the most demanding conditions. He was a talented, reliable and dedicated soldier.

Tpr Lawrence deployed to Afghanistan this year as part of Emsdorf Troop, a Fire Support Group attached to A Company, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (2 MERCIAN). For the first three months of the tour he had operated on foot and in a Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) in Garmsir, before the Battle Group deployed to the Lashkar Gah district.

Always the first to volunteer for anything, Tpr Lawrence made a name for himself across the regiment for not only being a surprisingly good dancer, but simply being the most cheerful, helpful and friendly person you could hope to meet. You could not help but like him, and he was universally popular as a result. He was a devoted husband to his wife Amy, and doting father to their baby daughter Jessica.

Tpr Lawrence’s family paid the following tribute:

No words can ever explain the loss, he was our Knight in Shining Armour. Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Grandson, Son-in-law, Brother-in-law, Friend, and in the early years The Man of The House, a pleasure to be around.

The Light has been turned off in our world but his memories will always live on in his precious daughter who he thought the world of.

He lived for the Army and died for his country. A Hero in everybody’s world he will be missed by everyone, always in our hearts you will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Gus Fair, Commanding Officer The Light Dragoons, said:

Tpr Lawrence was one of the characters that make a family regiment such as The Light Dragoons so special. Lenny’s generous nature, inability to bear a grudge and sheer enjoyment of day-to-day life endeared him to us all. Everyone counted him amongst their friends, and his loss will hit the regiment especially hard.

He soldiered with great heart, shown both in the boxing ring and on the battlefield. Utterly selfless, he was mortified if he ever made a mistake, and it was impossible not to forgive him immediately as you could see just how much he cared.

Lenny was devoted to his family, and the pride he took in his wife and daughter shone from him. It fills me with enormous sadness that Jessica, his baby daughter, will not grow up to know her brilliant father, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Amy and his mother Gaynor as they grieve this tragic loss.

Major Sam Plant, Officer Commanding C Squadron, ‘The Legion’, The Light Dragoons, said:

Tpr Lawrence, or ‘Lenny’ as he was known by his many friends, was known to all of us as a real contributor. Whatever was going on, Lenny seemed to be at the centre of it - he was forever putting himself forward as a volunteer for both military tasks and other, extra-curricular events. He had an insatiable appetite for life and certainly lived it to the full.

There was nothing that he would not do to help out a mate and, in going about his business, he always sought to benefit the team at large. A more decent and selfless man one could not wish to meet.

It is typical of Lenny that he volunteered to represent C Squadron in the recent regimental boxing competition. As was his way, he displayed courage and determination in the ring and this positive approach had underpinned his work in Afghanistan until he was cruelly taken from us. He was dependable and hard-working and enjoyed the friendship and respect of all those who had the privilege of working alongside him.

Lenny was a central player in a very close-knit team. The sense of the loss and sadness will be intense for his great many friends and colleagues in The Light Dragoons and we will remember him with immense fondness and respect forever.

The sense of loss and sadness, however, will be nothing compared to that of his family. His wife Amy and their young daughter Jessica were everything to him. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the rest of his family at this exceptionally sad time.

Lieutenant Charlie Dunn, Troop Leader, said:

Trooper Phillip ‘Lenny’ Lawrence was a senior Trooper in 2nd Troop when I arrived at regimental duty. It quickly became evident to me what a character and lively personality he was and I instantly took a shine to him. Tpr Lawrence was a true professional and a natural soldier.

He set an example to the other Troopers on how to balance being a highly capable and effective soldier but still enjoying all that life has to offer. He was conscientious and reliable and never one to complain about a job no matter how tough.

He was a talented sportsman with his passion in life being football and especially Manchester United even though he was from Liverpool! He was also a talented boxer and last year he boxed in the RAC championships.

He was a man of many words, which was a reflection of his bubbly character and enthusiasm for life. Only two months ago I was on stag with him in an OP [Observation Post] during the early hours of the morning and I don’t think through that whole period he remained silent.

He was good morale for the Troop, always involved in pranks and mischief and he could always be relied on when times were low with witty comments to get everyone laughing. The bar in Castlemartin will not be the same without a topless Lenny dancing away!

Lenny was a natural father and was so very proud of his baby girl. My heartfelt condolences go out to his loving wife Amy, daughter Jessica and mother Gaynor. They will be in mine and the Troop’s thoughts and prayers.

Tpr Lawrence’s tragic loss now leaves a void within 2nd Troop and his infectious enthusiasm and limitless energy will be sorely missed. It was an honour to command such a true character and a pleasure that I shall never forget. He loved the regiment and the regiment loved him; we have lost one of our true characters.

Lieutenant Rowley Gregg, Troop Leader, Emsdorf Troop, said:

Tpr Phillip Lawrence, known as ‘Lenny’ to most, was a charismatic soldier that always put others before himself. A devoted husband to Amy and a loving father to Jessica who was born late last year, I remember how proud and happy Lenny looked whilst introducing Jessica to the squadron.

“Tpr Lawrence had many hobbies, at the top was football. He was an avid Manchester United fan who was never to be seen without his favourite home strip; I believe Jessica owned a few strips herself.

“Lenny put his heart and soul into pre-deployment training. A skilful gunner who excelled on a squadron range package in Castlemartin, he was keen to put these skills into practice.

This was his second tour in Afghanistan, for this reason he was looked up to by his contemporaries for advice and guidance. He died whilst driving a CVR(T). This alone shows his diverse range of skills as a formation reconnaissance soldier and his willing character, always volunteering to help others in need. Above all he was a real team player.

“Tpr Lawrence will be remembered by the lads by his peculiar sense of humour that added to the morale of any situation no matter how serious the occasion. He was never shy to take centre stage, especially when karaoke was concerned. Tpr Lawrence was a Light Dragoon, part of Emsdorf Troop, whilst in Afghanistan who was attached to A Company, 2 MERCIAN.

He will be greatly missed by all. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this extremely sad time. Rest in peace ‘Lenny’.

WO2 David Rae, Squadron Sergeant Major, C Squadron The Light Dragoons, said:

Tpr Lawrence, or ‘Lenny’ as he was affectionately known, has been a ‘Legion’ lad since he joined the regiment in 2006. I first met him when I assumed the post as Squadron Sergeant Major in early 2008. I immediately perceived him as a cheeky little Scouser; it was the smile in his eyes and the constant grin which led me to believe he always had something up his sleeve, but he wasn’t that way at all.

“Lenny was a grafter and he had bottle; he put his all into everything, especially when wearing his squadron colours in whatever he was doing, whether that be PT [Physical Training] or representing the squadron at a sporting event. One event worthy of mention sticks to mind.

The squadron needed to win the dodgeball competition to guarantee an overall victory in the The Light Dragoons sports trophy. Most of the team had been clobbered, leaving Lenny and one other to make the almost impossible happen; Lenny was like William Tell with a dodgeball and despatched the lot of them single-handed. We were all amazed, Lenny was proud as punch, The Legion was victorious.

“Lenny was immensely proud of his squadron and his regiment and a very caring husband and father. He was extremely mild mannered but also good fun to be around, regardless of the situation he had a smile which was infectious; he was one of life’s good guys and a son, husband and father his family should be extremely proud of, just as we are.

“We have all lost a dedicated and trusted friend and colleague within C Squadron and The Light Dragoons but ultimately our thoughts and prayers are sent to his family and friends, especially his wife Amy and young daughter Jessica who he was devoted to.

“Lenny, you will be sorely missed in many ways but always fondly remembered and will always remain one of us.”

Sergeant Bell, Troop Sergeant, said:

Tpr Phil Lawrence, ‘Lenny’ to all who knew him, joined my Troop in November 2007, just six months after completing a tour of Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 5. This gave him experience beyond his young age and stood him in good stead for what lay ahead in all training and eventually this deployment. Lenny was first and foremost a Cavalry soldier.

However he showed his flexibility in Emsdorf Troop by carrying out various tasks from mundane stagging on to crewing a CVR(T) Scimitar, then deploying on foot carrying weight up to 40kg on patrols lasting hours.

“Lenny was a devoted husband, father, soldier and friend and he gave 110 per cent in everything that he did. His devotion to his job was nothing short of selfless, however this did not compare to his devotion to his wife Amy and his daughter Jessica to whom he was totally committed.

Lenny was taken from us before his time as a young soldier, husband, father and son. Some comfort can be taken from the fact that he was with his friends when he was taken from us and we will continue the work he was part of, bringing peace to an unstable place. You may be gone mate, but your memory will live on forever. You will not be forgotten.

Corporal Mark Bowman, Vehicle Commander, said:

I’ve known Phil since he joined The Legion back in June 2006. He was a very confident lad which made him stand out amongst his peers; all of which joined for the up and coming deployment to Afghanistan.

Throughout his time in The Legion he became a very popular bloke; there wasn’t a man to say a bad word about him. When ‘Lenny’ came to my crew as a driver we would often sit up after stand-to and talk about all the things we would enjoy doing with our families, wives and children when we returned home. It was an honour to have served with you mate, you will never be forgotten.

Tpr James Wright, Gunner, said:

I met ‘Lenny’ in the early part of 2008 when I joined C Squadron, ‘The Legion’, and The Light Dragoons; I didn’t really know him that well then. He later came to our Troop as a replacement during the recent operations.

In the last four weeks I learnt so much about him; he was a confident character and always full of morale but mostly he was a great help to me and a good friend. It was a pleasure knowing and working with you Lenny, you will be remembered mate and never forgotten. Rest in Peace.

Lance Corporal Omar Wilson, a friend from C Squadron, said:

I first met Lenny in 2006 when he came to 1st Troop, C Squadron. We spent six months together in Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 5 and he’d been a good mate ever since. He had a heart of solid gold and a personality that could get him through anything. He loved being part of C Squadron and The Light Dragoons, and he was really popular with everyone he ever met.

“I will miss you loads mate, and I will never forget all the good times with you and the lads. My heart goes out to his wife Amy their baby girl and the rest of his family back home.”

Tpr Chris Lewis, a friend from C Squadron, said:

For nearly two years I had worked with Lenny in the same Troop and, for most of that, we were in the same crew. Unusually, although I was quite a bit older than him, I was the driver and Lenny was the gunner but that did not affect our brilliant relationship. He was always on hand to help out and offer advice and working with him was always a privilege.

“His wife and child were the greatest thing in his life and everything that he did, he did to make them proud. My thoughts are with him and the rest of his family at this time.”

Tpr Jamie Coates, a friend, said:

Tpr Phillip Lawrence, known to everyone as ‘Lenny’, will be missed by everyone that knew him. When Lenny was around the troop morale would always be high, as he was the joker and entertainer of the group and would always be laughing. Lenny was happy no matter what.

“Anyone that knew Lenny would know what a kind, caring and thoughtful friend he was. He was friends with everyone, a popular character who was willing to do anything for his friends and family.

“Lenny was never shy and being the entertainer he would always be the first on the dance floor or karaoke. He was the best dancer by far out of his mates and loved to show off his moves, always ending with him doing the worm across the dancefloor on nights out.

Lenny was a keen sportsman which led him to take part in the squadron boxing last year. Football was his favourite sport, being the massive Man United fan he was he was always wearing a footy shirt even when we were scuba diving in Malta.

“Having been a close friend to Lenny I have many good memories. I will miss having a kick about and watching the boxing at his house at the weekend. But I will mostly miss his sense of humour and generosity. I think everyone will agree that Lenny was a true friend.

My heart goes out to Lenny’s family as I know how much he loved his wife Amy and daughter Jessica. He was a proud dad and would have done anything for his family.

“I can’t express how much Lenny will be missed but I know he will never be forgotten and I will remember Lenny as the happy, smiley character he was.”

Lance Corporal Charlie Rock and Lance Corporal Alan Cheshire, close friends of Trooper Lawrence, said:

Lenny was a good soldier with a kind heart and would have done anything for anyone he knew. He was never shy to get stuck in and was also a keen sportsman. He was a great character and was a brilliant friend. He will be sorely missed. We will never forget him.

Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, said:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of WO2 Sean Upton and Trooper Phillip Lawrence. These two men were at different stages of their careers, but it is clear that both were outstanding soldiers who commanded the respect and admiration of their colleagues, and whose loss will be felt by many. My profound sympathies are with their families and friends.