Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2004, Private Lee Martin O'Callaghan, 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, was killed in Iraq during an attack by Shia militiamen in Basra. He had been in an armoured Land Rover on the way to assist colleagues who were surrounded by militants loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada Sadr. The militants were armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Private O’Callaghan was shot in the chest – he had been wearing body armour, but the bullet missed the protective front plate by just over half an inch. He had called his mother the day before to tell her how excited he was to be going home within a few days, and he also mentioned for the first time how “scary” he felt that things in Basra.
Private Callaghan had joined the Army Cadets as a young teen, then joined his battalion in December of 2003. He had been in Iraq for five months, arriving straight from basic training.
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Maer said: “Pte Lee O’Callaghan was quickly assimilated into the regimental family. He was highly regarded and known as a hard working, diligent member of the team who could be trusted to finish any task with characteristic good humour. He was an avid football fan and keen supporter of Millwall. As a midfielder player himself he took every opportunity he could to play football, bringing his love for the game from Tidworth to Iraq. Lee came from Bermondsey, London. He joined the army for the excitement and challenge it offered, he excelled in the training and preparations for Iraq and looked forward to deploying on operations and to do the job for which he had trained. Pte O’Callaghan showed the highest standards of professionalism and courage, in a highly volatile situation. The loss of Pte O’Callaghan is deeply felt by all those in the Battalion, but especially so by his friends in B Company.”
Lee, from London, was 20 years old.