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LIEUTENANT DANIEL CLACK

8 PL, C COY, 1 RIFLES

MARCH 25, 1987 – AUGUST 12, 2011

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Lt Dan Clack’s final letter read, ‘Dear Mum, I must start by apologising for the pain you are going through now… I hope you take some comfort from knowing that I was always prepared to make this sacrifice.’

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK was a much-loved son, boyfriend and brother.

He was also loved and respected by his men from the moment they met him. ‘He was the best young officer I’ve worked with,’ said his platoon serjeant, Darren Gornall. ‘I know when tragic events happen they always say that the person was outstanding, but in Dan’s case it really is the truth.’

Lt Clack was killed, aged twenty-four, by an IED packed with ball-bearings while on patrol in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province.

His mother, Sue, and father, Martin, and some of those with whom he served, have been kind enough to tell Graham Bound the story of Dan’s life and death, and we are proud to be able to share it in our new book At The Going Down Of the Sun.

If you read nothing else today, you really should read the following two letters.

The first is the letter Dan Clack left for his fellow soldiers of The Rifles, to be opened only in the event of his death:

Dan Clack note to his men

The second is the letter he left behind for his mum, Sue:

Dan to Mum

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA

A COY, 1 RIFLES

JUNE 18, 1974 – MAY 23, 2011

Kevin Fortuna and Nia photo

Colour Serjeant Kevin Fortuna with his wife, Nia. He was perhaps the ultimate soldiers’ soldier.

KEVIN FORTUNA HAD pretty much done it all in his nineteen-year Army career.

He’d joined up at sixteen, and he’d travelled all over the world – on sunshine tours to places like Cyprus and Australia, and on more testing deployments to Iraq, Northern Ireland (where he worked undercover) and Afghanistan.

Along the way, he had met and married Nia, a nurse (he claimed he was a geography teacher when they first met, as squaddies didn’t have the best rep in Colchester), and had developed a reputation as a quiet but exceptionally gifted soldier and then NCO.

‘What he didn’t know about machine guns and other heavy infantry weapons wasn’t worth knowing,’ said his friend and comrade, Rifleman Dan Meally (the difference in rank meant nothing to Kevin). ‘The things he taught me basically improved the odds on my surviving.’

But there was nothing that training could do about IEDs, and it was to one of those terrible hidden devices that CSjt Fortuna lost his life, aged thirty-six, in May 2011, while patrolling in support of the ‘Black Knights’ of Kilo Company, 42 Cdo Royal Marines, in Sayedabad Kalay, Nahr-e Saraj.

He left behind Nia, his mother Sue, and many friends and brothers.

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK

A COMPANY, 1st BATTALION ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT

FEBRUARY 2, 1988 – NOVEMBER 14, 2010

Aaron McCormick 2

Rgr Aaron McCormick with his proud mum, Maggie.

WE COVERED AARON’S story here, so I won’t reproduce it again – other than to say that he was an incredibly brave young man who would doubtless have gone on to great things had he lived.

Sadly, we have been unable to locate the pilot mentioned in the story linked to above, despite the assistance of Thomas Cook and BALPA.

Perhaps he (or she) doesn’t want it to be known, which makes it a more generous gesture still. We are quite happy to pass details on to Maggie McCormick in confidence, if that helps.

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

gathered at Daunt Books on Holland Park Ave yesterday evening (I except myself from that description).

We launched At The Going Down Of The Sun, with a number of recent Afghanistan veterans in attendance and many members of the families of those contained in the book.

Among those present were:

Tom Wright, uncle of Cpl Mark Wright GC.

Lesley and Sarah, mother and sister of LCpl Jake Alderton.

Des Feely, father of Cpl Sarah Bryant.

Dave Deering and Karen Waspe, parents of Cpl Rob Deering (along with his stepmother and stepfather).

Robin Thatcher and Helena Tym, parents of Rfn Cyrus Thatcher.

Debby Morris and Rowenna Elson, mother and sister of LCpl Dane Elson.

Lucy Aldridge, mother of Rfn William Aldridge.

[William’s platoon commander, Lt Alex Horsfall (he left the Army as a captain), was also there. Alex lost a leg and most of his left arm in the series of explosions with claimed the lives of William and four other riflemen, but he remains astonishingly sanguine about what happened to him. His thoughts were and are only for the men he commanded.]

Martin, Gill and Russell Harrison, the parents and brother of Cpl Chris Harrison.

Jenny and Melissa Birdsall, mother and sister of Mne Steven Birdsall.

Angela Horne, mother of Pte Tom Sephton.

Sue and Martin Clack, parents of Lt Dan Clack, and his girlfriend Amy.

Lisa McKinlay, widow of LCpl Jon McKinlay.

Carol Horan, mother of LCpl Peter Eustace, and his aunt Margy.

Capt Johnny Mercer, now out of the Army after three tours of Afghanistan, was there to represent the parents of his good friend LBdr Mark Chandler. As you’ll see from the link, Johnny is standing for parliament at the next election. Regardless of your politics, he is a very good man and we need more people like him in the House of Commons.

The other families were unable to attend because of the distance involved, but we of course send them all our best wishes.

Those we were able to meet were a very inspiring bunch of people; they’ll never get over what happened to their loved ones, but they are determined to press on and make the best fist of life that they can.

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON

C COMPANY, 1 MERCIAN

MARCH 19, 1990 – JULY 5, 2010

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Tom Sephton strikes a pose – and rehydrates – in Afghanistan.

TOM SEPHTON WAS fighting hard alongside his mates in the Mercians when news reached him that his best friend from his schooldays, Marine Steven Birdsall, had been shot dead near Sangin.

As soon as he could, Tom phoned home and managed to get hold of his dad, Ian, on his mobile. As it happened, Ian was at Steven’s wake, at the Royal British Legion club in Warrington, which meant that Tom was able to speak to Steven’s father.

As soon as he came home, he promised, he would be round to see the Birdsalls.

It was a promise he could not keep; a month later, Tom Sephton was himself killed.

He was twenty, and he left behind a grief-stricken family – a mother, a father and step-mum, a sister, Sarah, and a step-brother, Dan*.

An excellent rugby league player, a fine mortarman – who somewhat broke the mold of that trade, being a young ‘racing snake’ rather than a grizzled old veteran – and a tirelessly cheerful member of his company, his loss was also felt keenly by his mates.

And by none more than by his best mate in the Army, Charlie Emina, who was alongside Tom when the Taliban claimed his life with a hidden IED, and who later named his then-unborn daughter after the young squaddie he had loved like a brother.

Tom’s story is told in At The Going Down Of The Sun by his father Ian and mother Angela, by Charlie Emina and others. It’s tremendously moving.

*Dan and Tom were very close and they had a pact; if anything happened to Tom, Dan would join up in his place. Dan is indeed now a member of the Mercians.

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL

BRAVO COMPANY, 40 COMMANDO ROYAL MARINES

OCTOBER 6, 1989 – JUNE 14, 2010

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Marine Steven Birdsall in a picture believed to have been taken the day before he died.

STEVEN BIRDSALL TRIED to join the RAF as a PTI (physical training instructor), but they turned him down saying he ‘lacked leadership skills’.

It was a mystifying decision, all the more so because Steven promptly joined the Royal Marines instead – hardly the sort of place for shrinking violets to end up.

He took to life in a green beret as to the manner born – he was a truly excellent young soldier and highly popular with his comrades.

He was deployed to the Sangin area of Operation Herrick 12, at around the same time as his close boyhood friend Tom Sephton also flew out to Afghanistan.

Tom had joined the Army’s Mercian Regiment, and there was a bit of good-natured joshing between them as to which was the superior outfit – the Army or the Marines.

When he went, he left behind a loving mother and father, and a tearful younger sister, Melissa.

‘Liss’ was convinced the big brother she idolised would not come home.

Tragically, she was proven right: Steven was shot dead by a Taliban sniper as he provided overwatch to some Royal Engineers who were working on his camp’s defences.

He was twenty years old.

As with all twenty of the servicemen and women who feature in At The Going Down Of The Sun, we tell Steven’s story via the memories of family, friends and comrades. We also share some of his letters home from theatre. It is an enormous privilege for us to be able to do so.

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER

D BATTERY, 3RD REGIMENT ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY

APRIL 26, 1977 – JUNE 8, 2010

Mark Chandler 1Mark Chandler (l) with his colleagues Baz Barrowcliff (c) and Johnny Mercer, in a moment of downtime not long before Mark’s death.

MARK CHANDLER WAS a welder in the picturesque Cotswold town of Nailsworth, and happily enjoying the most conventional of lives, when his long-term girlfriend told him she wanted to travel to Australia for a year – alone.

It was a life-changing moment for Mark, and it brought him great happiness and personal satisfaction, but it also led to his death.

He’d never previous been interested in the Army, but within a few months he had joined the elite Royal Horse Artillery.

After some time working as a driver for the regiment’s CO, he volunteered for perhaps the most demanding role his unit offered, that of a fire support team member. These brave men – they are all men as things stand – would accompany infantry patrols out into the Afghan badlands and call in ‘fast air’ (jets with bombs), Apache attack helicopters or their own artillery to support troops in contact.

It was a job which often led to them standing almost toe-to-toe with enemy fighters – literally metres apart.

It was a thrilling experience – Mark’s boss, Capt Johnny Mercer explains why in At The Going Down Of The Sun – but obviously very dangerous. On June 8, 2010, a Taliban bullet found LBdr Chandler as he ran across a track near Nad-e Ali.

He left behind two loving parents, a brother, and hundreds of friends.

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

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