Whilst acting as 2IC of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) in support of a Company Operation Marc Birch was killed in action by a suspected enemy suicide bomber on Friday, 12th December 2008 in Sangin, Southern Helmand on operations with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando Group, Royal Marines. The Company was conducting an operation alongside Afghan National Army troops to dominate areas posing a dangerous threat to British forces and the local Afghan population. Sergeant John Manuel and Marine Damian Davies, who were travelling with Marc in the same vehicle, were also killed. Despite the efforts of all those around him, Corporal Birch tragically died from his injuries at the scene of the incident.
Marc Birch was a Corporal serving with 45 Commando, Royal Marines in 6 Troop, X-Ray Company.
Marc Birch, known as 'Birchy', was born in Northampton on the 23rd March 1982. After completing Royal Marines Commando Recruit Training in March 2000, he joined 42 Commando Royal Marines. He served at 42 Commando Royal Marines for seven years. During this time he gained considerable operational experience in Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and Iraq. In 2005, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal and subsequently served in the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM) in April 2007 before moving on to 45 Commando Royal Marines in November 2007.
Corporal Birch was a proud 'Tankie', a Heavy Weapons Anti-Tank Specialist. As a Section Commander within 6 Troop, X- Ray Company, his responsibilities placed him at the vanguard of troop and company action. With his specialist skills he provided intimate fire support to the front line of the fighting troops with a variety of Crew Served Weapons; Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), Grenade Machine Gun (GMG) and the JAVELIN missile system. As an experienced Corporal he was instrumental in the success of his Troop and Company.
He was a keen footballer and when serving at 42 Commando he played for the unit team on a regular basis and was a crucial member of the team when they won the Navy and Tunney Cup in 2000. As testament to his sporting ability, he scored the only goal against the Sierra Leone National Team when 42 Commando played them in Freetown . This fact was also an integral part of his comedy routine.
Corporal Birch was an outstanding character, a good friend and an absolute pleasure to work alongside. He had a cheeky, quirky sense of humour and never failed to see the bright side of life, this combination made him incredibly popular. His gregarious nature was enhanced with the attributes of courage and loyalty. He exemplified all the qualities any Royal Marine Commando would aspire to have. He hoped to progress through the ranks and serve in all of the Commando Units.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 45 Commando Group:
"Corporal Marc 'Birchy' Birch was an outstanding Royal Marine Commando and a popular and very capable leader. Courageous, determined, warm-hearted and with an impish sense of humour; he demanded high standards from his men but always motivated them by personal example and commitment. He has made a considerable contribution to 45 Commando and to the Royal Marines during his service with the unit and his approachability, engaging personality and loyalty was much respected throughout his Troop and his Company. He was killed by a suicide bomb whilst he was deployed at the forefront of an important operation to provide security to the people of Sangin. 45 Commando has lost both an outstanding individual and an important member of the team and he will be greatly missed by us all. Corporal Birch was also a devoted family man and I extend my very deepest condolences to his close family and friends as they come to terms with his loss."
Major Richard Maltby Royal Marines, Officer Commanding X-Ray Company:
"Corporal Birch was the embodiment of a Royal Marine Commando. Continually cheerful and with a wry smile, he was courageous, determined and utterly professional; he died serving his country and helping his friends. It has been my absolute privilege to serve with somebody so dedicated and loyal; his conduct on operations was first class. Although bitterly saddened by this loss I know Cpl Birch would expect the Company to continue to take the fight to the enemy. His loss will be felt across the Company and the Battle group. However, my thoughts are with his family and Charlene, who he recently married. He will be sorely missed by all."
Warrant Officer 2 Jim Curran RM, Company Sergeant Major X-Ray Company:
"Cpl Birch joined a newly formed X-Ray Company in November 2007. His knowledge, experience, high professional standards and drive were instrumental in shaping both the Fire Support Troop and X-Ray Company into a highly effective fighting force ready to deploy to Afghanistan . During Op HERRICK 9, 'Birchy' carried out his duties efficiently with determination, focus and thoroughness. With his wry sense of humour and Bootneck boldness, 'Birchy' was always great fun to be around both at work and 'ashore'. Cpl Birch was an exceptional Junior Non Commissioned Officer who embodied the highest standards and traditions of the Royal Marines. He will be missed by all of X-Ray Company."
Captain Luke Thomson, Officer Commanding 6 Troop Fire Support Group:
"Corporal Birch was a highly popular member of X-Company and 6 Troop. Extremely professional and always willing to help out other marines within the troop, his knowledge and experience had proven indispensable throughout OP HERRICK 9. His dry sense of humour would get him out of most scrapes; mostly involving navigation as the troop found out in Norway , Wales and the Sangin Valley but his energy was infectious. All who knew him will miss him dearly and most of all, the men of X-Ray Company who saw him as a friend and as the epitome of a Royal Marine Commando."
Sergeant Neil Metcalf, 6 Troop Fire Support Group:
"I was pleased to find that Birchy would be a Corporal in 6 Troop, X-Ray Company. Having known him for a number of years at 42 Cdo as a strong and dependable marine, it was evident that he would be an asset to the troop. His willingness for a few beers at the drop of a hat was impressive. Whilst on OP HERRICK 9 his sense of humour and work ethos was contagious amongst the troop. He will be greatly missed by me and all that knew him. Most of all his love for his family and wife was absolute. Our thoughts go out to them in their time of sorrow".
Corporal John Cowie, Javelin Section Commander, 6 Troop Fire Support Group:
"Corporal Marc 'Birchy' Birch played a pivotal role within the Company. He was keen to pass on his knowledge and experience onto junior marines. Always seeing the best in people he would manage to get an extra mile out of all of those under his command. He would often work on the 1% rule - tell enough jokes and 1% of them would get the desired result. When ever a prank was played within the troop Birchy would be the ringmaster. Like a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Birchy would be found guilty by simply the grin on his face. It was obvious to all who knew Birchy that his family meant everything to him. Everyone knew how supportive his family were of his life within the Royal Marines, especially Charlene. He was so proud to be married that he spoke of her daily whilst deployed on operations. We will miss his laughter, his smile but most of all his great personality that inspired us all."
Marine Joe Hawley, 6 Troop Fire Support Group:
"The term nicest guy can be used to describe Birchy. He was truly one in a million. His good humour and happy go lucky nature shone through in everything that he did. The junior marines within the troop feel fortunate to have worked with him so early on in their careers. We can only hope to aspire to be as good a Bootneck as Birchy, even if he was more "pussers" than a personal kit muster. His ability on the slopes of Norway earned him the nickname 'arctic fox' but his capability to go on a spontaneous run ashore was remarkable. He was devoted to his wife Charlene and extremely close to his family. It was clear to all of us that he loved them very much. Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him and who would put up with his abysmal jokes will sorely miss Birchy. From all of 6 troop - 'Never forgotten.'"