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Captain James Anthony Townley from the Corps of Royal Engineers died in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan from wounds sustained whilst serving at Forward Operating Base Shawqat on Friday 21st September 2012.
Full eulogy on next page
Captain James Townley was born on 22nd September 1982 in Tunbridge Wells. He grew up
near Glastonbury in Somerset, going to school in the local area. Having received a
first-class degree in Engineering and Computer Science from University College
Oxford, he worked as a tax associate for Price Waterhouse Coopers before attending
the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in January 2007. He commissioned into the Corps
of Royal Engineers in December 2007 and promoted to Lieutenant soon after completing
his Royal Engineer Troop Commanders' Course before serving in 28 Engineer Regiment,
based in Hameln, Germany.
Captain Townley was an avid sportsman who enjoyed a wide variety of sports including
skiing, mountain biking, kite surfing and sailing. Having rowed for his college at
university, he later went on to represent the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and
Captain Townley was attached to 21 Engineer Regiment from 28 Engineer Regiment for
the duration of Operation Herrick 17. He deployed to Afghanistan on 5th September
2012 with 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment and was based in the
Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province as the Battle Group Engineer supporting 1st
Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment. Upon arrival, he immediately immersed himself
in operations that directly supported the transition to Afghan-led security,
providing specialist advice on engineer tasks and capabilities. He had quickly
established himself as a professional and charismatic officer.
In his time with 28 Engineer Regiment he shone as an intelligent, experienced and
highly competent individual who had great plans for the future. With unrivalled
commitment to his soldiers, he combined consummate professionalism and ability with
a personable, humorous and approachable character. Extremely popular with his fellow
officers, Captain Townley lived life to the full and was at the heart of the
Regiment both professionally and socially.
Above everything else, he will be remembered for his selfless commitment to every
undertaking, his strength of character and his faultless integrity.
Captain James Townley, was a remarkable young man. He leaves behind his parents
Peter and Jacqui, his brother Nick, and girlfriend Helen.
James's family said:
"James was a wonderful, loving and caring son and brother. He was devoted to his
girlfriend Helen. He was our guardian angel and our hero. We were so proud of him.
He touched every part of our lives and his loss has left a huge chasm that we can
"James will never be forgotten and always in our hearts and thoughts."
Lieutenant Colonel Chas Story, Commanding Officer, 28 Engineer Regiment, said:
"James was an exceptional officer, a great character and unbelievably clever. The
Regiment is devastated that such a bright light has gone out - everyone knew him and
it was impossible not to be drawn in by his passion and humour. He was on his third
tour of Afghanistan and a volunteer for all three. He joined to be a soldier and he
was determined to make the most of all the opportunities he could. The Regiment will
be a poorer place without James.
"In this painful time our thoughts remain with his family, his girlfriend Helen and
all his friends. He was an outstanding individual and throughout his life he has
made a massive difference to all those he encountered. He will never be forgotten."
Lieutenant Colonel Jack Nicholson, Commanding Officer, 21 Engineer Regiment, said:
"Captain James Townley was an enthusiastic, professional and extremely likeable
young officer who made friends easily. Back in Afghanistan for his third tour, he
had worked hard to prepare for the deployment and was looking forward to getting to
grips with the challenges that lay ahead. In the time that I have known him, he was
always cheerful, polite and full of energy - a real pleasure to command.
"His tragic loss has stunned the Regiment, and we are all trying to come to terms
with this awful event. He had many friends throughout the Corps and his loss will be
deeply felt by all those who had the privilege of serving alongside him.
"Our heartfelt condolences are with his parents Peter and Jacqui, his brother Nick
and girlfriend Helen. I cannot begin to imagine the pain they are feeling, but the
thoughts and prayers of the whole Regiment are with them at this most difficult
Major Spence McComb, Officer Commanding, 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment, said:
"Captain James 'JT' Townley was a star within 28 Engineer Regiment, having served
with us for the last four years. An exceptionally intelligent young officer with
notably sharp analytical and planning skills, his military career was flourishing.
Nothing was too much for JT, he would always be on hand to help out his fellow
officers or soldiers, he would never put himself first, and he was someone who could
be relied on. He was held in immensely high regard by his brother officers with whom
he had some very strong bonds; all his soldiers looked up to him. We all enjoyed his
witty banter and respected his sense of duty - he will be very sorely missed."
Major Garreth Dent, Officer Commanding, 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer
"Captain James Townley joined my Squadron as we prepared for deployment to
Afghanistan. His professionalism and keen intellect meant he made an immediate
impression on us all and in only a few short weeks he had become an integral part of
our headquarters. Although I knew him for only a short time, it was long enough to
understand that he was a dedicated and loyal engineer officer with a bright future
ahead of him.
"This was James's third tour of Afghanistan and he remained determined to make a
difference. He was relishing the challenges the tour would bring and had thrown
himself wholeheartedly into his role as Battle Group Engineer to the transition
support unit in Nad-e Ali. He worked tirelessly to coordinate the delivery of
engineering projects he knew would improve the lives of the local Afghan population.
"James was an ambitious and driven individual who had great plans for the future and
his career beyond this deployment. His loss will be felt keenly by all who knew him,
however briefly, and the thoughts and prayers of all his colleagues are with his
family and friends at this difficult time."
Captain Richard Pearce, Regimental Operations Officer, 28 Engineer Regiment, said:
"James Townley and I completed Sandhurst together, commissioning into the Royal
Engineers and serving together in multiple theatres.
"James, or 'JT' to his friends, was a good officer and a great guy. He combined a
vast intellect and professional ability with a likeable demeanour and infectious
enthusiasm. As a fellow officer he was hugely impressive; his ability to digest and
analyse information in a split second was incredible and I have no doubt he would
have excelled in anything he chose to do.
"As a friend one could simply ask for no better; his spirit of adventure ensured
that spontaneous road trips kite surfing or skiing around Europe were aplenty. A
genuine friend, 'JT' would always make the effort to catch up, often turning up with
the makings of a good cocktail.
"'JT' will be sorely missed, both as a fellow officer and a friend. Our thoughts are
with his family at this sad time."
Captain Luke Wilson, Regimental Signals Officer, 21 Engineer Regiment, said:
"James Townley was the epitome of a British Army officer; fit, reliable, intelligent
and absolutely trustworthy. He also had a wicked sense of humour which you could
always tell was near the surface by the tiniest of grins and a glint in his eye. He
was a man of considerable but understated achievement; a degree from Oxford and
being in the Sovereign's Platoon at Sandhurst to name just two. He excelled at
everything he tried yet never flaunted his considerable abilities.
"I first encountered 'JT' on the River Isis at Oxford when he rowed for his college
crew. Dressed in Lycra and Wellington boots I was struck, not only by his dress
sense, but by his stoic commitment to the task in hand and sheer will to win,
attributes that he would display repeatedly during his time in the Army.
"As an Officer he was second to none and loved what he did, taking care of those
under his command and supporting those around him. He was utterly dedicated in
everything he did and had already made an impact here in Afghanistan, impressing his
battlegroup with his intellectual prowess and sound judgement.
"His great passion was sailing and in 2010 he led an expedition along the coast of
Croatia. When stories of his escapades came back, they were soon written into
Regimental legend. However he never corroborated any of them and it was only that
small grin and little glint of the eye that told you there was more to it than he
was prepared to admit.
"'JT' was the best officer I have ever met and the Royal Engineers and the Army has
lost a most loyal servant. He was a steadfast friend to those who knew him and never
had a bad word to say about anyone. The phrase that he always brought to my mind was
that he had 'heightened sensitivity to the promises of life'. He was always ready
and willing to exploit every opportunity and see what was new in the world. He left
everywhere he went all the better for him being there and I am proud to have had the
honour of knowing and working with him."
Captain Ash Greenwood, Operations Officer, 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer
"If life was for living then 'JT' made the most of every minute. Intelligent, astute
and with a dry sense of humour, 'JT' made the best of every situation. Words cannot
express the grief caused by his passing and the thoughts of all of his friends
within the Corps are with his family and his girlfriend Helen. We will never forget
Lieutenant Brad Southall, Support Troop Commander, 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer
"I first met 'JT' in the 28 Engineer Regiment Officers' Mess and he immediately
struck me as a friendly, genuine and funny individual. He was a very busy man,
always putting in maximum time and effort to everything he did, yet would always
make time to pass on his considerable knowledge and experience to anyone who asked,
no matter what the subject. If ever I knew anyone who was going to make his millions
it was 'JT'! He always had a comical outlook on the topic of discussion, offering up
his opinion, usually tinged with a facetious edge, which endeared him to everyone he
"We often spoke and it was clearly apparent that he was full of optimism about his
future and very much looked forwards to spending more time with his girlfriend
Helen. I am truly shocked by his death and deeply saddened. He is a friend who will
be sorely missed by all who knew him. My thoughts are with his family, friends and
girlfriend in what is undoubtedly an incredibly difficult time."
Lieutenant Mike Thorne, 7 Troop Commander, 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer Regiment,
"The tragic loss of a good friend and fellow officer is a crushing blow to all those
that knew him. 'JT' as he was known to his friends, spent his entire career in
Hameln. He was well known, hugely liked and respected within the Officers' Mess and
the wider Regiment.
"As a Troop Commander in the same squadron, I had the distinct privilege of working
closely with him as well as living in the same Officers' Mess. A sharp and witty
individual, he regularly brought humour to his environment. Always the first to
deliver a hilarious and cutting comment to events within our Mess, he was definitely
the person to be around when looking for laughs. Highly dynamic, he regularly found
activities to take part in and did his best to facilitate those around him joining
in. A true friend he was always prepared to help those who needed it. I personally
owe him for the many hours he spent in the evenings helping me with my career
development, as well as the advice and help he has given me with the job in hand.
"He cared a lot for his personal life and spoke fondly of his family and girlfriend
Helen. He often discussed excitedly his intentions for his future career and the
opportunity to be able to spend more time with those he cared about.
"The loss to those of us on tour and back in Hameln is huge, albeit incomparable to
that of his family and Helen. My thoughts go to them in this tragic time."
Warrant Officer Class 2 Tristan Barnett, Squadron Sergeant Major, 4 Armoured
Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, said:
"I first met Captain Townley in our Squadron Headquarters a few weeks prior to
deployment. Although not part of our regular team, he made an instant effort to
integrate himself into our way of life and training regime. During the high tempo of
pre-deployment training this effort was immediately recognised and quickly earned
him the respect of all ranks across the Squadron.
"Captain Townley's diligence and attention to detail were key to the challenges and
tasks facing him as a Battle Group Engineer. This did not seem to faze him, and
during my discussions with him he was revelling in the challenges that this job had
"It seems very clichéd, but Captain Townley will be sorely missed, and this tragic
incident will have a significant impact on all that knew him. All within 4 Armoured
Engineer Squadron send their thoughts and prayers to his family during this
Sergeant Adrian 'Ad' Dixon, Reconnaissance Sergeant, 42 Field Squadron, 28 Engineer
"I first met Captain Townley as a Troop Commander at 23 Amphibious Engineer
Squadron. He quickly embedded himself and produced all the goods expected from a
young officer. He was extremely fit, loved a sporting challenge and became a
well-liked officer across the ranks. He had a cracking reputation as a Troop
Commander and made a name for himself in the squadron bar and Officers' Mess as
someone who embraced the Germany way of life.
"I worked with him closely as the Operations Officer for 42 Field Squadron. He threw
himself straight into the role and as always gave 110% effort prior to deployment to
Afghanistan. Captain Townley was an absolute professional, a keen workhorse who
would never give up and would always complete the task to the highest of standards.
This was what I was looking forward to most; working side by side with him
throughout our deployment.
"I'll remember Captain Townley as a keen sailor and an excellent skipper, proven
during the sailing trip we had to Croatia after our previous Afghanistan deployment.
We were going to return there after this deployment, although now my thoughts will
be with him during a trip that will undoubtedly miss his presence.
"My thoughts go out to all his family, friends and girlfriend Helen, all of whom
were a huge part of his life. He was an excellent officer and friend. He will be
missed by all, especially his close friends back in 28 Engineer Regiment, Hameln.
"Be strong up there 'JT' and we will meet again one day for a beer. Rest in Peace."