Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2011, Fusilier James Wilkinson, 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed in a training incident while on exercise in Kenya.
Popular, fit, enthusiastic and cheerful, Fusilier Wilkinson loved his life in the army, as had his father before him. He had joined his battalion in May of 2011, having completed Phase 2 Training, and volunteered for Fire Support Company. He completed the Fire Support Group cadre with an exemplary pass, and the following month went on his first exercise in Kenya.
On the day of his death he was hit in the neck by machine gun fire. The coroner’s court was told that an attempt was being made to clear a jammed gun. A staff sergeant, the safety supervisor, was found guilty of negligently performing his duty by failing to ensure the safe handling of the weapon; and a corporal admitted to negligently performing his duty while handling the weapon, thereby causing the unintended discharge which killed Fusilier Wilkinson. Both soldiers were originally dismissed from the army, but appeal court judges later reduced the jail terms and ruled that they could stay in the army reduced to the rank of private. A narrative verdict was returned by the inquest jury, which said that the breakdown in the safety system was due to insufficient training prior to the exercise. The coroner concluded that the main omission was a failure to ensure “the safe direction of the weapon”.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Butterwick said: "Fusilier James Wilkinson was the epitome of a Fusilier. He was robust, fit and was dedicated to his profession. Even though he had only been with us for a relatively short time he had already made his mark on the Battalion. His personality was infectious and his professionalism was absolute. He had already been identified as a potential future leader....determined, keen and always ready to take the initiative his performance on the exercise was simply outstanding. The Battalion has been rocked by James' death and a gaping hole has been left in his Fire Support Group. James was a true Fusilier and we will always remember him. Once a Fusilier - Always a Fusilier."
James, from Whitefield, Manchester, was 21 years old and married with a small stepson; his daughter was born three months after his death.