On Monday 6th August 2007 Craig Barber was taking part in a night operation to counter indirect fire attacks on Basra Palace in the Al Fursi district of Basra City. He was driving a Warrior vehicle when he was killed by small arms fire.
Craig, who was 20 at the time of his tragic death, was from Ogmore Vale and joined 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh in 2004. He leaves behind his loving family, including his wife Donna and son Bradley.
Lieutenant Colonel JFP Swift MBE, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, paid the following tribute:
"Craig joined the Battalion in 2004 and deployed to Iraq for the first time 12 months later; this was his second tour here. He was a dedicated soldier who was keen to deploy on operations in support of his mates, and earlier this year had qualified as a Team Medic in order that he was better able to do so.
"He had also recently qualified as a Warrior driver and he had never been happier. It appeared that he had found his role. He loved his vehicle and looked after it diligently. He was fiercely protective of it and would never let anyone else drive it. Why? Because he understood how important a fully functioning vehicle is to operations in Basra, and that it was his responsibility. If it worked it would save lives; if it broke down he would be putting his mates' lives at risk. He was justifiably proud of the part he played in the Platoon and wanted to do it to the very best of his ability. This was characteristic of a man who was very professional, courageous and who never wanted to let his comrades down.
"He loved practical jokes, but was never malicious in their execution and never angry at being the victim of someone else's prank."
Private Barber's Company Commander, Major Steve Mannings, said:
"Craig had taken part in the whole spectrum of operations on this tour. He had patrolled by day meeting the locals in rural areas, he had secured cordons on detention and search operations, and he had helped escort convoys to sustain other soldiers in the Brigade. Last night Craig's company, C Company 2 Royal Welsh, was attached to the Basra City Battle Group for a detention operation. Their aim was to disrupt the insurgents who have been launching rockets and mortars at their base in Basra and thus increase the safety in the base. Craig died as he lived; working for others and helping to protect them.
"Craig married Donna in August last year and was looking forward to their first anniversary; he had arranged his leave in order to be there. He was a caring, loving father to Bradley who turned three only last month. He has always been a physically imposing guy and had a larger than life personality. He was one of the characters in his platoon and was much liked by all his colleagues. We will miss him badly but our thoughts and prayers are with Donna, Bradley and Craig's other family as they cope with this tragedy."
"Craig Barber first came to C Company in 2006 after recovering from a long term injury. He was keen to get himself back into the swing of soldiering and soon found himself learning to be a Warrior armoured vehicle driver in 9 Platoon. Driving a Warrior suited him to a tee - both shared the same characteristics, large, powerful and occasionally loud; it was sometimes difficult to tell where Craig ended and his Warrior began. He was a huge physical presence in his platoon but was the epitome of the gentle giant, always ready for a chat, always eager to please - he was an extremely popular young man.
"He was one of the best Warrior drivers in the Platoon. Fiercely proud of his vehicle, he worked hard to maintain it and would not let others drive it."
"He was fully aware of the dangers of operating in Iraq; on his first operation into Basra, his Warrior was struck by a roadside bomb, yet he did not shy away from going on patrol. Some of his greatest battles in Iraq came from the environment rather than the enemy, he really didn't like the heat at all, but still could be found working on his vehicle to ensure it was ready for the next mission.
"He was heard to claim on more than one occasion that 'it's so hot, my eyes are sweating'! It is a measure of the man that Warrior drivers operate in the most cramped and hot conditions, yet this was his job and he drew great personal pride from it. He was very much a team player and would help out any of the other drivers whether as a favour or simply to improve his own knowledge.
"Above all else, Craig was a dedicated family man. He was looking forward to his leave which he had managed to arrange to coincide with his first wedding anniversary. He talked often of Donna and Bradley and how much he enjoyed married life and was looking forwards to getting back to Tidworth. He loved practical jokes, but was never malicious in their execution and never angry at being the victim of someone else's prank.
"In many ways, he enjoyed being the centre of attention, but never hogged the limelight. He was in all respects a thoroughly decent man who enjoyed a laugh and loved his family and his mates. My abiding memory of him is seeing him sitting in Saddam Hussein's palace, a massive smile on his face, beating yet another hapless opponent at chess. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him and our thoughts and prayers are very much with Donna, Bradley and with the rest of Craig's family."
2nd Lieutenant Olly Pope, his Platoon Commander, said:
"Private Craig Barber was a key member of 9 Platoon who had many friends. Always a gossip and joker, he tried hard to wind up those around him to keep his mates' morale high. Craig had an eye for card games and chess, and loved to confuse people with his tricks and riddles. He was also a devoted family man, who decorated his bed space with pictures of his wife and young boy and talked about them constantly.
"He was one of the best Warrior drivers in the Platoon. Fiercely proud of his vehicle, he worked hard to maintain it and would not let others drive it. He especially liked driving fast and putting the vehicles through their paces. Craig will be greatly missed by the Platoon as he was a man who could be trusted to do his best by others and always bring a smile to people's faces."
Corporal Glen Watts, Private Barber's room-mate, said:
"Craig will be remembered to me as a gentle giant and someone who loved to put a smile on people's faces. He will be missed in the Platoon and also greatly missed as a room-mate."
Private Luke Berni said:
"One thing that Craig enjoyed doing was playing chess. He would always compete with someone and come back with a grin on his face knowing he had won."
Private Niall Warren said:
"Craig was a happy lively lad who cheered us all up when the times were tough. He will be sorely missed."