Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 2006, Gunner Stephen Robert Wright and Gunner Samuela Vanua, 58 (Eyre’s) Battery, 12 Regiment, the Royal Artillery, were killed in Iraq. They were heading back to base and were near the town of Ad Dayr, north of Basra, when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
Gunner Wright enlisted in the army at the age of sixteen after being a cadet for a while on leaving school. He was four months into his first operational tour, at the end of which he was to attend a promotional course. He had made his home with his grandparents as his mother had died ten months earlier. Gunner Wright loved the army life, was well-liked and well-respected, and his sense of humour was much appreciated.
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Campbell said of him: “It is with immense sadness that I learned of the death on operational service of Gunner ‘Trigger’ Wright, in Iraq. Gunner Wright was a valued member of the Regiment who was partway through his tour of duty doing what he wanted in life; serving with his Regiment and his team mates on operations. This personable young man had already made a big impact with his Battery. When I last visited 58 (Eyre’s) Battery in July, I was struck by Gunner Wright’s confidence, growing maturity, and belief in himself. A quiet man, never one to offer unnecessary comment, he preferred to speak only when he had something of value to add. Gunner ‘Trigger’ Wright had very much come of age in Iraq where he displayed unwavering loyalty to the Battery, his multiple and his team. To lose such a valued young man under these tragic circumstances has affected all us enormously.”
Stephen, born in Preston and raised in Leyland, Lancashire, was 20 years old.
Gunner Vanua had joined the army in April of 2002 and soon was described as “The archetypal Gunner: tough, hard-working and resourceful.” He had served in Northern Ireland as well as on a previous tour of Iraq, and proved his courage, professionalism and abilities. An enthusiastic sportsman, he excelled at many sports and played rugby for the army, showing the same dedication and high standards which he had brought to his army career.
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Campbell said of him: “I am deeply distressed by the tragic death of Gunner ‘Sammy’ Vanua. Although, due to the nature of his attachment, Gunner Vanua was not widely known across my Regiment, he had made an emphatic mark on operations in Iraq, establishing himself quickly as a valued member of the team and very much a character within the Battery…I got to know Gunner Vanua when he accompanied me on a long patrol. I was impressed by his excellent attitude, infectious cheerfulness, conduct and confidence. I have many Fijian soldiers in my Regiment; I could see he was there with the best of them. His cheeky grin characterised a mischievous good humour that endeared him to all. Popular throughout the Regiment, he was fantastic company at work and socially. A young man growing in confidence and maturity, Gunner Vanua had obvious potential for a hugely successful career. A high quality, motivated soldier of whom the Army, his Regiment and his Battery is rightly very proud.”
Samuela, from Suva in Fiji, was 27 years old