Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2009, Lance Corporal David Kirkness and Rifleman James Brown, both from the 3 Rifles Reconnaissance Platoon, died in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Kirkness was killed outright following a suicide improvised explosive device blast on a route into central Sangin, northern Helmand province, and Rifleman Brown died on his way to hospital in Camp Bastion from injuries sustained in the incident.
Lance Corporal Kirkness joined The Rifles in March of 2004, attended the JNCO’s cadre in 2005 and was promoted to Lance Corporal a year later. He completed a close protection course in 2008 and also began to learn Pashto, the native tongue in much of Helmand province. Before deploying to Afghanistan in October of 2009, he completed the highly demanding two-month sniper course. Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson said: “Lance Corporal Kirkness was a Rifleman of the highest standard, talented, highly motivated and with boundless energy. He was a first class leader, one who put the thoughts and needs of his men first. To the younger Riflemen he gave inspiration and guidance, earning their respect and instilling in them the confidence and understanding to guide them through their current challenges. He balanced courage and grit with compassion and consideration, winning trust, admiration and friendship wherever he went. Tragic as his loss is, we take comfort and pride from the fact that he and the soldiers who died with him, both Afghan and British, averted a much larger tragedy. Their sacrifice prevented two suicide bombers from reaching their intended target, the bustling Sangin bazaar. The Battle Group has lost a talented young leader at the heart of the fight and we of The Rifles have lost a brother. He died doing a job for which he was the keenest of volunteers; a job he loved and for which he was made.” David, from Wakefield, was 24 years old and left behind a three-year-old daughter.
Rifleman Brown had only joined the Army that year, passing out to join 3rd Battalion The Rifles in October 2009, attending the individual reinforcement course and deploying as a battle casualty replacement in late November, two weeks before his death. Major James Richardson said: “The death of Rifleman Brown is, in many ways, particularly cruel. He had arrived with the company less than two weeks ago and had been very quickly integrated into his platoon and deployed to one of the patrol bases. He had made a really good first impression, typical of the high quality Riflemen that are coming to us from training and that I am so lucky to command. He was already making his mark, and not just for his insistence that he should be known by his rather unflattering moniker of ‘Fat Head’. He was beginning to show all of the hallmarks expected of the thinking Rifleman and was testimony to the generation of guys who are willing to take on the challenges that we face out here. While he did not have a chance to forge the closest of relationships with his new battle partners his loss weighs heavily because of the unrealised potential and the strength of the initial signs. Our thoughts are with his family for whom this will have been the bitterest of blows.” James, from Orpington in Kent, was 18 years old.