Sergeant Craig Brelsford and Private Johan Botha, 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters an
Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2007, Sergeant Craig Brelsford and Private Johan Botha, both from 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), died in Afghanistan. They were taking part in a pre-planned operation south of Garmsir, southern Helmand province, when their patrol was attacked by enemy fighters. Sadly both were both killed during the subsequent heavy firefight. Sergeant Brelsford was killed attempting to retrieve Private Botha's body. An article about the incident can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/2403961/Afghanistan-soldier-killed-in-act-of-incredible-bravery-trying-to-recover-comrades-body.html
Sergeant Brelsford had enlisted in the army in 1999, served in Northern Ireland on three operational tours, and was on his second tour of Afghanistan. The tributes point to an extraordinary man and soldier, described as incredibly talented, with potential and maturity beyond his years. Major Jamie Nowell said: "Sergeant Brelsford was one of the most dedicated, professional and highly focused Infantry commanders I have been privileged to work with. He died maintaining the incredibly high standards he lived for and protecting his soldiers’ lives - his troops always came first. Charismatic, intelligent, tough and robust; Sergeant Brelsford was the perfect Infantry commander. I am convinced that if he had been given the opportunity to choreograph his own death it would not have been dissimilar to the heroic circumstances in which he died. Sergeant Brelsford was killed in action attacking a well defended Taliban position in an attempt to protect and evacuate his wounded comrades. He repeatedly fought through tenacious enemy fire to extract casualties and was hit on his final attack to find Private Botha, also killed in action, who had fallen behind enemy lines - this exceptionally courageous act of bravery and selfless commitment personified the character of Sergeant Brelsford. He was not only the consummate professional, he was extremely popular with a friendly, outgoing and mischievous sense of humour which endeared him to everyone. He was idolised by his troops and held in high esteem by his peers." Craig, from Nottingham, was 25 years old. For Private Botha, this was his first operational deployment and his first deployment overseas with the Army. He had just been recommended for a junior commander’s cadre as it was deemed he was ready for promotion after his exceptional performance on operations. Although severely injured in the intense battle, he had continued to fight on until the end. He is remembered as being courageous, strong and tough, a natural soldier. Lieutenant Simon Cupples said: "Private Botha was a larger than life character. With a physically dominating frame and a loud personality he always had a presence wherever he was. He was a confident soldier who helped and guided the younger soldiers. He had a real passion for soldiering and nothing would faze him. He always worked hard and was never afraid to get into a fight with the enemy. He died a true soldier." Johan, originally from South Africa, was 25 years old and married with a baby daughter.