Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2007, Corporal. Lee Fitzsimmons, 45 Commando Royal Marines, and Sergeant John Battersby, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, died in Iraq.
They were in a team from 22 SAS Regiment being dropped by helicopter in bad visibility outside Baghdad, their mission was to find and capture insurgents believed to have been responsible for a bombing campaign. The Puma crash-landed and rolled, injuring four of its eleven other SAS passengers and three RAF crew.
Sergeant Battersby and Corporal Fitzsimmons were trapped in the wreckage, which caught fire from leaking fuel. The coroner criticised the MoD for "indefensible procedural and maintenance errors," saying that a lack of equipment contributed to the deaths, and that it was "inexplicable" that a fuel valve had not been the subject of any checks for almost 30 years - an anti-spill valve on the crashed helicopter was faulty, had it not been it might have prevented a fire taking hold so rapidly. Sergeant Battersby is believed to have died before the fire took hold, while Corporal Fitzsimmons died from a severe head injury and inhalation of fumes – his injuries were not deemed survivable and it is believed that the head injury would have rendered him unconscious. Their colleagues ignored their own injuries as they attempted to rescue both men, but were forced back by the exploding aircraft and the ammunition "cooking off", causing a barrage of bullets to fly out of the burning wreckage. The helicopter pilot told the inquest that he believed their lives would not have been lost if he had not had to use shoddy radio devices.
Corporal Fitzsimmons had joined Royal Marines 42 Commando in 1999 at the age of 17. He transferred to 45 Commando five years later and saw active service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is remembered as determined, fun-loving and also a highly talented artist. Lee, from Bootle, was 26 years old. John, from Platt Bridge in Lancashire, was 31 years old and married with children.