Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2006, Marine Richard Watson, 42 Commando Royal Marines, was killed north of Now Zad, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. His patrol had been travelling up a river bed to a compound they were to clear when they came under fire by Taliban forces and he was hit by small arms fire. Marine Watson left his vehicle, came under fire from machine guns and a rocket grenade, so returned to the vehicle, at which time he was hit by small arms fire. He was taken to Camp Bastion by helicopter, with a full medical team, but sadly passed away on route.
He had joined the Royal Marines eighteen months earlier, joined 4 Troop K Company in April of 2006, and after intense training deployed to Afghanistan. He is remembered as never being without a smile, despite the situation, and was a source of encouragement for his colleagues. He loved his job, and it showed – while known for his sense of humour, he also impressed with his maturity, calmness, diligence and confidence. All of his qualities were noticed and he was identified as a candidate for promotion.
The coroner's court was told that he would have lived had there not been a shortage of the heavily armoured Viking amphibious vehicles. Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, the coroner said: "This vehicle [Pinzgauer] was not designed to be used in a situation where there may be incoming small arms fire and as a consequence was unsuitable for this type of patrol. A request had been made for a Viking vehicle but none was available." The major who had planned the patrol stated that had he had the option of using Viking vehicles it would have been “a no brainer". He said: "I actually discussed it with my commanding officer. It was my view that if we had them we could do more. But I was acutely aware that the number of Viking vehicles that were in the theatre was finite. If Marine Watson had been in a Viking vehicle in exactly the same spot with the doors closed he would not be dead today." The MoD refused to discuss how many Vikings or Pinzgauers were available in Afghanistan because of operational security reasons, but it was reported that by March of 2007 the Helmand battle group was meant to have ninety-six armoured vehicles but only sixteen had been delivered.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Holmes RM said: “Marine Watson will be sorely missed, all the more because of the man he was. A strong and highly motivated Marine, Richie radiated enthusiasm for his work and was inspirational, leading his young team from the front into hostile territory. He had already made his mark within his fighting Company as a natural leader and candidate for promotion, but he will also be remembered as a warm and passionate man who was ever cheerful, and who smiled through the hardships that he encountered, not least here on operations. He was fun to have around and will be remembered for his lively sense of humour.”
Richard, from Caterham in Surrey, was 23 years old.