On Wednesday, 14th January 2009 Danny Winter and Tom Sawyer were both 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.
Danny Winter was a Corporal in the Royal Marines 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.
"Brave, committed, extremely determined and operationally experienced he had a gift for giving honest advice and opinion without raising hackles and he was tremendously well respected by all ranks as a result. He was killed right at the forefront of an operation whilst providing the measured and balanced advice to his commander that had become his trademark. His loss has been deeply felt across the whole of 45 Commando and his ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered. The whole Commando joins me in sending my deepest sympathies to his family and friends."
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.
"Danny was a key personality within Zulu Company who all the lads looked up to. He always had time for the lads' questions on Mortar Fire and how best it supported them. He was out on the ground supporting most of the patrols over the last three months and would never pass up any opportunity to go out, even on the smallest of tasks.
"He discharged his responsibilities with pride and the utmost professionalism. Danny will be sorely missed within Zulu Company. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and we just want to say that Danny was a true 'Zulu Warrior' who was very proud to serve with Zulu Company, 45 Commando and the Royal Marines. A true bootneck has been lost."
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.
"He enjoyed karaoke and was often seen with a cigarette and pint in one hand, whilst loosely holding the microphone with the other, and belting out Neil Diamond classics at the top of his voice, often involving everyone else around him to great effect.
"Danny progressed in his career and became an outstanding Mortar Fire Controller. This was a job that he put his heart and soul into - like his singing - and excelled at. He was one of the best. From all the Mortar lads our thoughts go out to your family during these difficult times. You will never be forgotten."
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.
"He was always the first one to call you out for a drink down the pub, and he was always the first to need taking home. He was the heart and soul of whatever the lads were doing at any time, and he genuinely believed that he was 'the best looking and hardest man in Arbroath'!
"Danny had a strong character, was calm under pressure and had the heart of a lion which enabled him to offer advice to friends and family and company commanders. He always led by example and was looked up to by the younger Marines. He was especially well respected in the world of Royal Marines mortars, and he was immensely popular in Arbroath.
"Looking back on his time in 45 Cdo Mortars, it is impossible not to smile at some of the comical exploits he used to get up to. On numerous nights out he would always crack his trade mark dance 'the Van Damme' which he executed with all the grace of Woody, from Toy Story. He was a fanatical Man United fan who never missed a game, and would always be singing Man United songs whether they won or not, even if it did wind everyone up.
"Danny Winter will be deeply missed by his family, and friends. He was a man who would do anything for you. He is a tragic loss to those who knew him closest and he now leaves a huge hole in Mortar Troop. Danny was a legend and an inspiration to all of us in Mortars and I know he would want us all to be strong and crack on. It was an honour to serve beside him and it was a privilege to have worked in the presence of this massive character. Danny Winter, a true Mortar man."
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.
"He was his own person and a totally unique character. A true bootneck. I could spin lots of dits about Danny ranging from our time fishing together, to waking up in his flat watching him rush about getting ready for work, with red body paint all over from the night before, when he had been 'celebrating' Hallowe'en.
"He never did things by half and I know he will be sadly missed by his closest friends, his family, Arbroath and of course his girlfriend Amanda to whom my thoughts go out at this time. I'm absolutely gutted, love you brother, God rest your soul and may your memories live on."
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."