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  • Christina Drummond

Major James Joshua Bowman, Lieutenant Neal Turkington and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 1st Battalion, T

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2010, Major James Joshua Bowman, Lieutenant Neal Turkington and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, were killed in Afghanistan. A rogue Afghan soldier, Taleb Hossein, shot Major Bowman dead in his sleeping quarters at Patrol Base 3 in Nahr-e Saraj district, near Lashkar Gah. He then fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the base’s command centre, killing Lieutenant Turkington and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, as well as wounding four other soldiers.

Major Bowman commissioned into the Light Infantry in 1999, and later served in Northern Ireland as a rifle platoon commander as part of the Rural Reinforcement Battalion; he operated from an isolated patrol base and was awarded a General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland commendation. He spent time as an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick; he served in Iraq before taking a two-year appointment as an instructor in the Junior Officer Tactics Division to the Land Warfare Centre, after which he was promoted to Major. He also spent five months as the Assistant Chief Instructor at the Iraqi Military Academy Ar Rustamiyah. He began his company command with The Royal Gurkha Rifles in 2009, and the quickly earned respect and affection from the soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland MBE said: “Our Battalion has lost a brave leader. Major Bowman commanded A Company with a rare determination. The tragedy of his loss is beyond words. Since his arrival in Afghanistan, he led his Company deep into enemy controlled territory again and again. It is a bitter irony that after driving the insurgents back throughout his area, he was gunned down as he slept in the supposed security of his patrol base. Here in Afghanistan, he lifted us all daily. I learnt very quickly that I could rely on him implicitly, and that he would unflinchingly head straight towards danger if that was what was required. He was truly courageous. We will desperately miss his light touch, his cheerful demeanour, and his love of his soldiers, even if it was tinged with constant puzzlement about the weird and wonderful ways of the Gurkhas. We grieve for his loss.”

Josh, from Salisbury, was 34 years old.

Lieutenant Turkington graduated from Imperial College in London before attending Sandhurst. He commissioned into The Royal Gurkha Rifles in 2008 and completed the Platoon Commanders’ Battle Course. After attending the three-month mandatory language course, he undertook a trek through Nepal in support of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. He is remembered for having had the highest expectations of himself and his platoon - he constantly sought to improve himself and his men. He was described as “a decisive leader with a strong will, the boys followed him and would do so again and again through the most testing of situations.”

Lieutenant Tom Baker said: “Neal, whether it was in training, out on the town, or defending the Company from a Taliban flanking attack in Helmand, you have always been there to get me through a scrape and help your friends. Not only has the Battalion lost its most committed and intellectual subaltern, but we subbies have lost an older brother. Our dress sense is bound to slip without you there to control it. It is hard to believe that we will not see you in Shorncliffe yelling out support to the boys on route marches in your excellent Nepali with that unique Ulster twang. It seems harder to think of 2 Platoon carrying out their jobs without their beloved Platoon Commander. Do not worry though, CSgt Hom is nearly as much of a perfectionist as you, and the Turkington ‘stamp’ is well and truly embedded on the Platoon making it amongst the best in the Royal Gurkha Rifles. I cannot begin to describe how much you will be missed.”

Neal, from Craigavon in Northern Ireland, was 26 years old.

Corporal Arun enlisted into the army in 1995, and served with the Gurkha Reinforcement Company attached to The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. He completed the Section Commanders’ Battle Course in 2002, was promoted to Corporal in 2003, and served as an instructor and advisor in mine awareness and Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defence. He was serving with The Royal Gurkha Rifles, based in Brunei, when they deployed to Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 7, and then he deployed on Op HERRICK 12 in early June of 2010 as a battlefield casualty replacement. He relished new challenges and completed an extensive list of courses; his experience was highly valued, and he is remembered as an exemplary soldier and a true Gurkha.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland MBE said: “Corporal Arjun Purja Pun was a true Gurkha.

Brought out to Afghanistan at short notice to replace an earlier casualty, he immediately immersed himself in the task in hand. Steadfast and loyal, he was true to his regiment to the very end. We are a close knit community, and our Gurkhas are bonded through many years of service in a country far from their home. To all, Corporal Arjun was a guru-ji and a trusted elder brother. His loss is a cruel one. Torn from us in an unexpected night attack in the heart of his patrol base, we are stunned by the suddenness of his unexpected passing. I spoke to him shortly after he arrived in Afghanistan, and like all of us, he was apprehensive about what he might face. He also realised the enormity of the responsibility that he was taking on, leading his section on operations in which his decisions carried far-reaching consequences. But he was not daunted, and he stepped into the breach, immediately earning the respect of his men. Corporal Arjun, we will cherish your memory.”

Arun, from Khibang village in the Magdi District in Nepal, was 33 years old and married with a son and daughter.

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