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Sergeant Gareth Thursby of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's) (3 YORKS) was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday 15 September 2012.
Sergeant Gareth Thursby (left) and Private Thomas James Wroe were shot and fatally wounded by a rogue Afghan Local Policeman in Checkpoint Tora in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.
Eulogy for Falklands veteran Sgt Thursby on the next page.
Sergeant Gareth David Thursby was born on the 21 September 1982. He attended South Craven School in Skipton before joining the British Army on 3 August 1999. After completing his training in early 2000, he joined 1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment. His first deployment was to Kosovo in 2003 followed by Iraq in 2005. He passed the Section Commander's Battle Course to qualify for a posting to the Army Training Regiment in Pirbright as an instructor. Subsequently, he returned to the 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's) as a section commander. In October 2010 he was promoted to sergeant and assumed his role as a platoon sergeant in Alma Company.
Sergeant Thursby was deeply respected by all that worked with him and all that knew him. His professionalism and strength of character were his hallmark, as was his commitment to his men. His unswerving loyalty, moral courage and sense of duty were an example to all. He was 29 years old and is survived by his wife, Louise, and two children, Joshua and Ruby.
Sgt Thursby's wife, Louise, paid the following tribute to him:
"Gareth was the love of my life. He was an amazing husband and father, happy, full of life and kind hearted with a passion for his work and family. He was brave, hardworking, a loving husband who was a devoted father to his children. Our Hero."
Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning MBE, Commanding Officer, 3 YORKS, said:
"We have lost one of our finest, Sergeant Gareth Thursby. His nickname 'Bull' epitomised everything; he was strong, confident and unbelievably robust. He was admired and deeply respected by his soldiers and peers for his soldiering skills, physical strength and forthright honesty. Utterly professional, his standards were legendary.
"Having been his Company Commander and now Commanding Officer, I know just how committed to soldiering he was. However, against the hard exterior there was a caring and most compassionate leader. I heard just a few weeks ago that he had told his Platoon to call him 'Dad' during the tour. That is how he saw himself; a father figure for 30 men and women involved in gruelling operations in Helmand. On the very few nights where he was not on patrol, but his men were, Sergeant Thursby would remain alert and awake until all his men returned safely.
"When there were dangerous moments, it was always Sergeant Thursby who could be found at the front, offering steadying words to his Platoon Commander and the young soldiers. Such dedication and indeed selfless love for his fellow soldiers is remarkable and testament to the qualities of this unique man.
"Our thoughts today though are firmly with his wife, Louise, and his two wonderful children, Joshua and Ruby, who I know he loved and cared so much for."
Major Finlay Bibby, Officer Commanding Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant Thursby was an inspiring man. His physical stature, extreme professionalism and uncomplicated outlook on life demanded respect, which is exactly what he got from his soldiers. He led from the front and set an example that could not be ignored. He was able to blend strong leadership with a genuine compassion for his men who adored him and referred to him as 'Dad'. More importantly than being a superb soldier he was a devoted father and husband. The thoughts and prayers of Alma Company are with his wife, Louise, and his children, Joshua and Ruby. Sergeant Thursby's broad smile and indomitable spirit will be greatly missed."
Captain Tom Flecchia, Second in Command, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant Thursby was a good man and a good soldier. I have worked with him for the past three years and what I admired the most about him was his professionalism. He was the epitome of what a Platoon Sergeant should be. A rock and a leader for his men, he really did lead by example and personally set the standards. He was always there for whoever needed his support. I will miss the way he approached life with an easy grin and sense of humour. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Second Lieutenant Callum Cameron, Officer Commanding 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Every Platoon Commander suffers varying degrees of trepidation when meeting their Platoon Sergeant for the first time. However, when I first met Sergeant Thursby in Patrol Base 1, within the first minute we were sitting down sharing a cigarette and talking through the lads in the checkpoint. That was Sergeant Thursby, down to earth, friendly and uncompromisingly professional with it. This man, in one stroke, embodied The Yorkshire Regiment."
Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Darren Szymanski, 3 YORKS, said:
"One of life's true characters, Sergeant Gareth Thursby was a devoted father and husband who was respected and admired by all that knew him. Always leading from the front, with a style that was uniquely his own, which never failed to inspire all those that served alongside him. Gareth was a great man, father, husband, friend and role model to all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Duncan Wyeth, Company Sergeant Major, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Gaz Thursby, if there was one word to sum up this Yorkshire Warrior, it would be "strong", physically strong. But one word doesn't sum you up. You were also loyal, fiercely proud of your Platoon, highly dependable and also caring, compassionate and always thinking about your men. Most importantly you treasured your wife and children who you spoke about often and couldn't wait to get home to at the end of the working day. I will miss you Gaz."
Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew Roper, Operations Warrant Officer, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant 'Gaz' Thursby was an outstanding soldier and friend, who always put both work and family before his own needs. A devoted husband, a loving father to two wonderful children, and an incredibly professional soldier, Gaz made every effort to know each and every one of his soldiers personally. This in turn allowed him to command his men with ease and confidence. Morals were never compromised with Gaz. He always stood by what he believed. His loss is a great blow to all the Battalion as he was such a personality and respected by all his peers and commanders. The strongest of soldiers, a true leader and mentor to so many."
Sergeant Lee Burrows, 5 Platoon Sergeant, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"I have known Gaz for many years, we first met whilst training for Kosovo back in 2002, he was a machine back then; big and strong. Gaz loved competition he would never back down. We would always try our hardest to beat each other over the finish line. If there is one thing Gaz loved more than the Army it was his wife and family; a love which had no limits. Gaz was a devoted father who showed his children Joshua and Ruby all the love and attention a father should. Gareth, my friend, you will be forever missed by your family and friends. All my love, big guy."
Sergeant Paul Lilley, Section Commander, Mortar Platoon, Somme Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Gaz, a true warrior, strong as an ox, loved his job and could always put a smile on your face. My heart goes out to his family and friends in these extremely difficult times. Rest in peace, you will never be forgotten."
Corporal Edward Elliott, Mortar Fire Controller, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant Thursby was initially with Burma Company when I first arrived at Belfast Barracks in Germany. He took me in to 5 Platoon and looked after me. Gaz was an outstanding bloke and an inspiration to his Platoon. I can honestly say he was one of the finest Platoon Sergeants I have ever worked with. My prayers are with his family and all of Alma Company will surely miss him."
Lance Corporal Paul Barrett, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant Thursby, or 'Dad' as he was called by the Platoon, looked after every one of us as soon as we joined. Everyone knew Gaz because of his size and enjoyment of the gym but also because of his huge personality. He was a well known, liked and loved character in the Battalion. One of my lasting memories of Gaz was that if you gave him a weak coffee with two sugars, he could achieve anything. Another would be of his fondness of his sleeping bag! It was a hard task getting him in there, but a greater job getting him back out! He enjoyed his time with 3 Platoon as he said so many times to me. He was looking forward to the next part of his career and even joked that 3 Platoon would be going with him."
Private Reece Noble, 3 Platoon, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"Sergeant Gaz Thursby was the strongest man I have ever known. He was always up for a laugh and a joke with his men. When I first arrived with the Battalion nearly two years ago I didn't know what to expect but he looked after me. He was a wonderful man. Sergeant Thursby was an outstanding Platoon Sergeant; always battling along no matter what happened and he was always there for his men. It was an absolute pleasure and a true honour to have known him. Rest in peace."
Private Gary Wright, Alma Company, 3 YORKS, said:
"I first met Sergeant Thursby in January 2010 in the Falkland Islands. I found he was full of morale. He was always working hard for the lads and had the respect of all his men. He became a father-like presence in the Platoon. He helped me through the difficult times and never stopped believing in me and for that I thank him. My thoughts go to his family and loved ones. He will always have a place as my Platoon Sergeant but also as a friend. Always in my thoughts."