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  • Christina Drummond

Rifleman Daniel Simpson, Rifleman James Backhouse, Corporal Jonathan Horne, Rifleman William Aldridg

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2009, Rifleman Daniel Simpson, Rifleman James Backhouse, Corporal Jonathan Horne, Rifleman William Aldridge and Rifleman Joseph Murphy, 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, were killed in Afghanistan. They were caught up in a bomb blast near Forward Operating Base Wishtan in Sangin, Helmand province.

Rifleman Simpson joined the Army in 2007. He completed Combat Infantryman’s Course and served in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. On his return, during pre-deployment training for Afghanistan, his aptitude for anything to do with communications saw him given the pivotal role of Platoon Signaller. He was noted for potential beyond his experience, and looked forward to the upcoming JNCO’s Cadre. He was appreciated for his ready wit, cheeky smile, and for being able to cheer everybody up no matter what the situation.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson MBE said: “Rifleman Simpson was a classic Rifleman – hardy, determined and full of fun. He had been in the Battalion since February 2008 and had already been to Kosovo on our ‘disciplined summer holiday’ last year. Good enough to have flirted with professional football, he was surprisingly fit for a man with such a large capacity for food (we could not keep up) and drink. In Afghanistan, he had made a real difference here in Sangin and he dealt with the arduousness of this place without breaking step. His first inclination was always to look out for others. His sense of fun permeated all that he did and his stated intent was to be Regimental Serjeant Major one day. It was a wholly appropriate dream. He leaves a desperately big hole in our lives.”

Daniel, from Croydon, was 20 years old and left behind a baby son.

Rifleman Backhouse had joined the Army in 2007 as an Under-18, which meant he could not deploy with his platoon to Kosovo the following year, ensuring his enthusiasm was even greater when he was able to deploy to Afghanistan in March of 2009. Quick to volunteer for any task, he cleared the route ahead for his fellow Riflemen to follow, and is remembered for his keen eye, courage and likeability.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson MBE said: “One of four brothers, Rifleman Backhouse was a natural soldier and this was his first tour. As part of 9 Platoon, he had endured some of the most austere conditions in Sangin – there was never a murmur of complaint and he was the sort who simply got on. He was a determined, rigorous and thoughtful young man who saw the lighter side of life. He loved his rugby and his football and his heart was set on being a physical training instructor - it would have been right up his street. He was utterly selfless and always the first man in his company to welcome new Riflemen. He is sorely missed and his family are front and centre of our prayers at this unimaginably difficult time.”

James, from Castleford in Yorkshire, was 18 years old.

Corporal Horne had joined the Royal Green Jackets in 2004, attended the Section Commander’s Battle Course in 2008 and was promoted to corporal in the middle of pre-deployment training. He served with distinction in Iraq, being wounded in action, and also on peacekeeping operations in Kosovo in 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan as a Section Commander, something of which he was immensely proud.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson MBE said: “Corporal Horne was one of a generation of rising stars in my Corporals’ Mess and he was right at the top end of it. He had gone from rifleman to corporal in only four years and was thriving on the responsibility of command on the most testing of operations. ‘J’ wore command lightly – testimony to the depth and attractiveness of his character as well as his natural soldier’s qualities. Nothing fazed him on the ground out here and Riflemen fought to be in his section. He was tough, compassionate and full of infectious mirth, exactly what I look for in my JNCOs. He adored life in all its richness. He was wildly and genuinely popular in the Corporals’ Mess and he would dance (badly) to the very end at their fabulous parties. He leaves a gaping hole in his Platoon, his Company and the Battle Group.”

Johnathan, from Walsall, was 28 years old and married with two children, the youngest of whom was three months old.

Rifleman Aldridge had joined the Rifles seven months earlier, after attending the Army Foundation College and completing Infantry Training. He also completed pre-deployment training for Afghanistan but was unable to go until he turned eighteen at the end of May in 2009, so he served with the Battalion’s Rear Party in Ballykinler. He took great pride in being one of the very youngest soldiers in Helmand, and died while helping to extract casualties from a previous explosion in which he had also been injured.

Captain Edward Poynter said: “Rifleman Aldridge was a key part of a very close knit and battle-hardened platoon. Although he deployed later than most, he quickly found his feet and he rapidly absorbed the skills required to operate in this complex and dangerous environment. He spent the bulk of his time in Afghanistan living in and operating from a small Patrol Base in Sangin. With virtually no amenities, luxuries or creature comforts to hand, he thrived on the challenge. He was a bright, fit, popular and resourceful Rifleman who made friends easily, and quickly grew proud of his Platoon and the men with whom he lived and fought. They too were fiercely proud and protective of him. He harboured aspirations to join the Special Forces and showed great promise for a long and successful career, which ended most tragically as he fought beside his friends to give the Afghan people a better life.”

William, from Bromyard in Herefordshire, had just turned 18 years old.

Rifleman Murphy joined the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles in 2008 after attending the Army Foundation College and the Combat Infantryman’s Course. He deployed to Afghanistan in March of 2009 as a light machine gunner in 9 Platoon, C Company. He is remembered as being particularly bright, committed, funny and artistic (and at times was sent to remove his artwork from the sentry positions).

Captain Edward Poynter said: Rifleman Murphy was an exceptional young Rifleman. He was fiercely proud of his Section and his Platoon, a passionate Villa fan and the joker of the Company. It is the mark of the man that he was selected to bear the responsibility of being one of the Platoon’s three Machine Gunners despite his relative inexperience. Rifleman Murphy was carrying his close friend and battle-buddy, Rifleman Simpson, to safety after he had been wounded in the first explosion when a second device initiated and killed them both instantly. Rifleman Murphy gave his life while trying to save that of his fellow Rifleman.”

Joe, from Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, was 18 years old.

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