• Christina Drummond

Captain James Townley, Corps of Royal Engineers


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2012 Captain James Townley, Corps of Royal Engineers, died while serving in Afghanistan. He had arrived back there the previous week for his third tour, having volunteered for each of them.

He was found behind a door locked from the inside with a gunshot wound to the head, his service revolver beside him - the officer who found him tried vainly to save his life, and stated at the inquest that it was not possible to discharge that particular gun by accident. Another officer stated that Captain Townley had put himself under a lot of pressure to do a good job, and that he was “a coiled spring." The coroner declared that it remained unclear whether he had intended to kill himself, so recorded a narrative verdict, saying that suicide could only be legally ruled if there was evidence beyond all doubt, and added that the circumstances of how the gun came to be fired, and Captain Townley's intent, remained "undetermined.

Captain Townley had received a first-class degree in Engineering and Computer Science from Oxford, after which he worked as a tax associate before attending Sandhurst in 2007. He is remembered as a personable, humorous and approachable officer, popular with his men and fellow officers alike, and with a wicked sense of humour.

Captain Luke Wilson said: “James Townley was the epitome of a British Army officer; fit, reliable, intelligent and absolutely trustworthy. He was a man of considerable but understated achievement; a degree from Oxford and being in the Sovereign’s Platoon at Sandhurst to name just two. He excelled at everything he tried yet never flaunted his considerable abilities. I first encountered ‘JT’ at Oxford when he rowed for his college…I was struck by his stoic commitment to the task in hand and sheer will to win, attributes that he would display repeatedly during his time in the Army. As an officer he was second to none and loved what he did, taking care of those under his command and supporting those around him. He was utterly dedicated in everything he did and had already made an impact here in Afghanistan, impressing his battlegroup with his intellectual prowess and sound judgement. An exceptionally intelligent young officer with notably sharp analytical and planning skills, his military career was flourishing.”

James, from Glastonbury in Somerset, died the day before his thirtieth birthday.

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