Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2011, Lance Corporal Jonathan James McKinlay, of B Company, 1st Battalion, The Rifles, was killed in Afghanistan.
He had joined the army in 1996, served in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and then deployed to Afghanistan as a battle casualty replacement three months earlier, having qualified as a Bravo Mortar Fire Controller, and was based in Checkpoint Chaabak in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. He is remembered for his outgoing and friendly nature, sense of humour, compassion and professionalism, and his love of doing things for others.
On the day of his death he was one of twelve soldiers accompanied by three Afghan National Police and an interpreter on patrol from Checkpoint Chaabak - at one point they stopped to change route to avoid a potential ambush point ahead. Lance Corporal McKinlay was in a field with the Afghan police, who had decided to pray; a fellow soldier told the coroner that Lance Corporal McKinlay had his compass out and appeared to be trying to help the policemen find out which way to face in order to pray. At that point they came under heavy fire from two points. Lance Corporal McKinlay was shot through the neck, and because of the heavy fire from both sides it was not possible to reach him for several minutes, by which time he had died.
Major Mike Turnbull said: “Lance Corporal McKinlay was one of the company’s most colourful and vibrant characters; a man with a huge personality and irrepressible optimism. Life was a challenge to him, and where lesser men would have faltered, Lance Corporal McKinlay simply forged ahead. He brought that same optimism when he arrived as one of our Mortar Fire Controllers, newly-qualified and bubbling with enthusiasm. His impact was instantaneous, both within the Fire Team with whom he worked, and the platoon with whom he lived. His mere presence on a patrol would reassure the men around him; they knew that they were in good hands when Lance Corporal McKinlay was on the ground. He was that sort of man, with a generosity of spirit and a kindness of heart that endeared him to all who met him. One in a million, the finest of Riflemen, he will be remembered with our deep and enduring affection.”
Jonathan, from Darlington, was 33 years old and married with a daughter and two step-children.