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Captain Tom Sawyer and Corporal Danny Winter killed in Afghanistan
A Military Operations news article
16 Jan 09It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Captain Tom Herbert John Sawyer Royal Artillery and Corporal Danny Winter Royal Marines were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday 14 January 2009.
Both were killed in an explosion while taking part in a joint operation with a Danish Battle Group and the Afghan National Army north east of Gereshk in central Helmand. They were members of a fire support team that was engaged in an operation to clear compounds in a known Taliban stronghold. Two other members of the patrol were injured in the explosion.
Captain Tom Herbert John Sawyer, Royal Artillery
Captain Tom Sawyer was serving with 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. He was in Helmand province deployed on operations as a Fire Support Team Commander attached to Zulu Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines.
Capt Sawyer, from Hertfordshire, was born on 20 January 1982. He was educated at Watford Grammar and Rickmansworth schools and, as a teenager, was a cadet with the Air Training Corps in Watford. A keen sportsman with a passion for outdoor pursuits, Tom decided at an early age to pursue a career in the Armed Forces. Settling on the Army, he was selected for training as an officer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and successfully passed out earning the Queen's Commission as a Second Lieutenant in April 2002.
The next step in his career saw him selected by the Royal Regiment of Artillery for Young Officer training. On completion, he was posted to 32 Regiment Royal Artillery (subsequently 39 Regiment) as a Troop Commander. After this tour, Tom was posted to the Army Training Regiment at Pirbright where his flair for instruction and ability to communicate with all ranks were assets that helped him to excel. His final posting, to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, came in September 2006, just in time for deployment to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 5.
On Operation Herrick 5, Capt Sawyer was given command of an Afghan National Army outstation with a remit to oversee and facilitate Afghan Army mentoring and training. This responsibility again played to his strengths and he received a Brigade Commander's Commendation for his performance under incredibly testing circumstances. On returning to the UK, he immediately passed the All Arms Commando course and in so doing earned the right to wear the Green Beret of Commando forces. Assigned to 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery based in RM Condor, Arbroath, Capt Sawyer was appointed Battery Training Officer and charged with preparing his unit for its return to Afghanistan in October 2008.
As the training officer, Capt Sawyer organised and delivered a first class pre-deployment training package that ably prepared 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery for operations; the high standards achieved by the men of the battery since bear testament to his endeavours.
Robust, fit and ever determined, Capt Sawyer was a keen sportsman who recently organised and led the Regimental Telemark Ski Team to compete at Army level in Austria. Looking to the future and the welfare of the men under his command, he had also planned to take his soldiers adventure training in Cyprus on completion of Op Herrick 9.
Socially, Capt Sawyer was a dynamo of good humour and fun; his company being thoroughly enjoyed by officers and soldiers alike. His intelligent wit and pleasant persona made him approachable by all ranks and one of life's great characters. His death is a huge loss to the men of his Battery, his Regiment, 3 Commando Brigade and the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
Capt Sawyer is survived by his wife Katy, whom he married in March 2008, his parents Martyn and Susan and sister Wendy.
Tom's family paid the following tribute:
"Tom was the best husband, son and brother we could ever have asked for. He deeply loved his family and friends and his infectious personality touched all those who knew him. Dedicated to the army and his lads; he was loyal, loud and loving. He will leave a big hole in all of our lives but will always be remembered as our hero."Lieutenant Colonel Neil Wilson Royal Artillery, Commanding Officer, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, said:
"Captain Tom Sawyer died a hero, doing a job he loved and whilst taking the fight to the enemy in the only way he knew. He was a first-class officer with a natural flair for command and was hugely respected by all his fellow officers and by the soldiers he commanded. He excelled as an instructor and mentor, and the time he took to impart his knowledge and uncompromising professional standards to his battery will undoubtedly be remembered as one of his greatest gifts.Major Jackson Docherty Royal Artillery, Battery Commander, 7(Sphinx) Commando Battery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, said:
"Tom Sawyer was the senior captain in my battery and also a great friend. He was extremely ambitious and had plans to pursue a career in the Special Forces for which he was well-suited and in which he would undoubtedly have succeeded. Receiving the Brigade Commander's Commendation for his performance during his last tour of Afghanistan, he was keen to replicate this performance which he did with courage, honour, and humility, always putting his team's interests before his own.
"Captain Tom Sawyer died a hero, doing a job he loved and whilst taking the fight to the enemy in the only way he knew. He was a first-class officer with a natural flair for command and was hugely respected by all his fellow officers and by the soldiers he commanded."
Lieutenant Colonel Neil Wilson Royal Artillery, Commanding Officer, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery
Captain Sam Hewitt Royal Artillery, Fire Support Team Commander, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery (attached to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery), said:
"Tom was a true friend, one, who no matter the circumstances, would help anyone, often putting himself out so others were not disadvantaged. I am a much better person for having known him. Tom had an enthusiasm for life paired with an overwhelming kindness which always seemed to brighten up a room. He worked hard and possessed a natural ability to lead, gaining respect from the soldiers under his command throughout the Gunners.Captain Rob Cooper Royal Artillery, Fire Support Team Commander, 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, said:
"Tom was an outstanding officer, an outstanding Fire Supporting Team Commander and an outstanding husband to Katy. Tom was a true inspiration to me as a friend and those that he served. His devotion to his wife, Katy, was unrivalled and my heart goes out to her and Tom's entire family who he never stopped talking about. You will be sorely missed mate."Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer 45 Commando Group, said:
"The tragic loss of Captain Tom Sawyer has been deeply felt throughout the whole of 45 Commando Group. A stalwart member of 7 Battery and 29 Commando RA, he has served with 45 Commando Group throughout two operational tours to Afghanistan and has lived and worked with us at home in Arbroath and abroad for the last two-and-a-half years - he is truly considered to be one of our own.
Corporal Danny Winter, Royal Marines
Corporal Danny Winter was serving in Helmand province with the Mortar Troop of Zulu Company, 45 Commando Royal Marines. A specialist Mortar Fire Controller, his role within the company as the commander's mortar expert required him to provide intimate mortar support to the front line of the fighting troops. It was whilst operating in this role, ensuring the ranks of Zulu Company were supported, that he was killed.
Corporal Danny Winter, known as Dan, was born near Manchester on 20 June 1980, and lived in Stockport. He joined the Royal Marines in October 1996 and specialised in the mortars heavy weapons branch very early on in his career. Serving with both 40 Commando and 45 Commando he had served operationally in Northern Ireland and in Iraq on Operation Telic in 2003 where he was involved in the initial aviation assault of southern Iraq.
After returning from Operation Herrick in Afghanistan in 2007 he completed command training and his enthusiasm to deploy to Helmand for a second time was testament to his determined attitude. Corporal Winter was an extremely professional and dedicated member of the Unit Mortar Troop and he epitomised its unique ethos. He had a true passion for his specialisation and revelled in the small community of which he became a vital part.
Highly capable and determined, Cpl Winter was also exceptionally laid back and humble. He undertook everything with absolute gusto, whether it was at work, supporting his beloved Manchester United FC, or spending time with his family and partner Amanda, with whom he shared his life. His enthusiasm was infectious as was his smile, which always had a laugh not far behind it. His combination of attributes made him an irreplaceable character to be around. Unselfish and unswervingly loyal to all that knew him, he encompassed all of the qualities of a Royal Marine.Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 45 Commando Group, said:
"Corporal Danny Winter was an exceptional Royal Marine, Mortarman and Non-Commissioned Officer with a big future ahead of him. Clear thinking and forthright yet loyal, warm-hearted and very approachable, he was hugely influential both within the Mortar Troop but also within Zulu Company where for the last few months he had provided them with staunch fire support and planning advice throughout the many challenges that they have faced in Afghanistan.Warrant Officer Class 2 Kevin Cheeseman, the Company Sergeant Major of Zulu Company, said:
"Danny has been Zulu Company's Mortar Fire Controller [MFC] Alpha for over a year and has worked with the company throughout all pre-deployment training, deploying on Operation Herrick 9 as the Zulu Company MFC Alpha. Danny was always 100 per cent focused on his job and his professional opinion was always welcome and accepted within the Zulu Company Headquarters.Captain Olly Denning Royal Marines, Officer Commanding Mortar Troop, said:
"Corporal Danny Winter was the epitome of 45 Commando Mortar Troop. He absolutely loved being a part of the Troop and was a part of its very character. He was extremely professional, fit and motivated. With a ready smile he worked hard without ever showing pressure, with a confidence and assuredness that steadied those around him. It was the 'work hard, play hard' rule he took most seriously and could swing from work to full run ashore mode at the blink of an eye. A true great, I will always consider myself lucky to have known Danny Winter."Colour Sergeant Ross Gunning Royal Marines, Mortar Troop Second-in-Command, said:
"I considered Dan a true bootneck from the start; a bloke who worked hard and played even harder. During this time I could see his passion for the job and his total devotion to his mates. Danny would always be the centre of attention on a night out, whether spinning 'dits' [stories] about his experiences on previous operations and exercises or just life in general, which he appeared to know a lot about, or so we thought.
"Corporal Danny Winter was an exceptional Royal Marine, Mortarman and Non-Commissioned Officer with a big future ahead of him. Clear thinking and forthright yet loyal, warm-hearted and very approachable, he was hugely influential both within the Mortar Troop but also within Zulu Company where for the last few months he had provided them with staunch fire support and planning advice throughout the many challenges that they have faced in Afghanistan."
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 45 Commando Group
Sergeant G T C Jones Royal Marines, 45 Commando Mortar Troop Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, said:
"Corporal Danny Winter was one of the most professional mortar men ever to pick up a set of binoculars and a compass. He was a man's man, who always had time for you and especially his lovely girlfriend Amanda. If things weren't going your way he would be there raising your spirits with a cheeky grin, witty comment and a laugh that was infectious and unique to him.Corporal Mark Jolly Royal Marines, Mortar Troop, Alpha Mortar Fire Controller, said:
"Danny was a good friend, whether teaching other members of the troop how it should be done professionally, or on a run ashore. On most occasions we aspired to be like him whether it be as an MFC, run ashore or as a one man tribute band to Neil Diamond. Danny's wild ways were finally diminished by the presence of a new passion in his life - Amanda, whom he fell for, head over heels. Amanda appeared to take control of Danny's personal remote control to great effect and they were good for each other. Danny you will be truly missed by all that knew you, and will always remain in our thoughts… and future spoofs!"Corporal Lee Birkin, 10 Troop Z Company, said:
"Danny Winter was an all round good bloke who did all he could to help 10 Troop Zulu understand Mortar support, and how best to use them. He explained on many occasions in his down time how the lads could call for Mortar support if he could not have eyes on their target. He was liked by us all and had time for all of us with some great words of wisdom. Above all he was well respected and he will be missed dearly by the lads."Marine Scott Longden and Members of 4 Section Mortar Troop said:
"Danny Winter was a bootneck through and through who worked hard and played even harder. This will hit our troop hard because to us he was the face of 45 Mortars and our motto, 'MMM', couldn't be more befitting to any other man. My last memory of Danny is walking into the Ship knowing that he would be on his favourite perch by the juke box, playing 'Caravan of Love' for me. Danny will be sorely missed by the men of mortars but certainly not forgotten."A friend, Marine Sam Laid, said:
"All I can say is that words cannot describe the loss of Danny Winter, 'the best looking man in Arbroath', as he would introduce himself. I first met Danny when I joined 45 Commando in 2003. Danny and a couple of other corporals, who know who they are, took me under their wing. I started drinking with them every weekend and leave period in Arbroath til this very day.Lance Corporal Simpson, Zulu Company, said:
"Danny was a nice genuine man and a true gent. He was a key man for Zulu Company, who was respected by all of us for his high standards of professionalism and support he gave at all times. He always had time for the lads and their questions, and for this we had the utmost regard and respect for him. We are gutted he has gone and he will be missed greatly."Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton MP said:
"It was with great sadness that I learnt of the deaths of Captain Tom Sawyer and Corporal Danny Winter, one a proven mentor and leader and the other an NCO of great professionalism and experience. It is clear from the comments of their colleagues and commanders that they were both brave and committed servicemen, with proud records and bright futures in the military.