John Thornton and David Marsh were conducting a patrol in the vicinity of Kajaki, Helmand province, Afghanistan when just after 4.53pm local time on Sunday 30th March 2008, the vehicle they were travelling in was caught in an explosion.
Medical treatment was provided prior to both being evacuated to the field hospital at Camp Bastion. Despite the best efforts of the medical team, both sadly died as a result of their wounds.
John 'JT' Thornton was a lieutenant serving in the Royal Marines
Lieutenant John 'JT' Thornton, aged 22, was from Ferndown in Dorset and joined the Royal Marines on 31 August 2004. He had previously served in Iraq and leaves behind his loving parents and brothers.
His family issued the following statement:
"Since the age of 13 John has always wanted to become a Royal Marines Commando. He said on many occasions 'I have the best job in the world'. He died a hero following his dream and doing the job he loved. He was proud to be making a difference to both the people of Afghanistan, and to all of us back home who value our freedom. A much loved and always caring son, brother and friend to all those who were fortunate enough to have met him, his death will leave a massive gap in all of our lives. We will not forget him."
Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Birrell RM, Commanding Officer 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
"Lieutenant John Thornton Royal Marines was in command of the Fire Support Group from Charlie Company, 40 Commando, when he was killed in action at Kajaki, northern Helmand, conducting a patrol to disrupt enemy activity in that area. His death has come as a tremendous shock to his friends and colleagues, and he will be dearly missed by his comrades in 40 Commando Royal Marines.
"John, known universally as 'JT', joined the Royal Marines on 31 August 2004 and made an immediate impact. A conscientious and highly motivated man, he loved the life of a Royal Marine and he very quickly proved himself to be a talented and highly capable Commando officer. Upon completion of Commando training his first appointment was an attachment as a Platoon Commander with the 1st Battalion The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, with whom he deployed to Iraq, serving with distinction during Op TELIC 8.
"He was subsequently appointed to serve with 40 Commando in January 2007 and was thrilled at the prospect of leading Marines on operations. His enthusiasm was infectious and his men responded magnificently to his leadership. An immensely professional officer, throughout his service he was greatly respected by the men under his command.
"During the various operations conducted by Charlie Company, 'JT' was always to be found in the thick of the action; a courageous and brave commander he never asked his men to do anything that he would not do himself. He led from the front and provided an outstanding example to his peers and his men alike; he was a resolute and formidable soldier in battle, a larger than life character who impressed all who met him.
"Lieutenant John Thornton's untimely death is a tragedy; a gregarious, fun-loving man, his passing has caused great sadness across the Royal Marines, and our thoughts are with his parents Linda and Peter, and his brothers Ian and Graham, at this very difficult time."
Major Duncan Manning RM, Officer Commanding Charlie Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
"'JT' was a central character within the Company. His relaxed and amiable personality made everyone he met immediately warm to him. His good humour and ability to laugh at himself was balanced with high professional skills and a devotion to the men under his command. Never shy of additional workload or responsibility, his laid back style drew the very best from his Marines and he was highly respected as a result of his willingness to listen to, and take advice from, his men.
"Their well-being and interests were always at the forefront of his mind and he would endeavour to do the best for them. 'JT' became a sounding board and confidante for the new Troop Commanders who arrived mid-tour, listening to their concerns and providing advice when he deemed it appropriate.
"His loyalty, both to his men and to the chain of command, was never in question and this trait when combined with his devotion to his career and constant energy made him a highly effective Royal Marines officer. When in contact with the enemy he remained cool, and his calm voice on the radio would regularly suppress any urge to panic or allow a situation to spiral out of control.
"He was killed as he lived his life, leading from the front and sharing the risks and dangers which his men were required to endure. He was very much looking forward to attending his older brother Ian's Passing Out Parade at the end of his Royal Marines Officer training, and having the opportunity to call him a sprog! JT's loss will be felt by the whole Company and he leaves a gap that will be impossible to fill. He was a true friend in every sense of the word. The thoughts of the whole Company are with his family at this particularly difficult time."
Captain Leon Marshall RM and Lieutenant Alex Nixon RM, 40 Commando Royal Marines, added:
"We will always remember 'JT' for his positive outlook on life. From Day 1 Week 1 of Young Officer Training through until the last time I saw him everything was always 'hoofing'. His enthusiasm was unbreakable, even when the Dartmoor weather was doing its worst. He was immensely proud of his older brother who is currently in Officer Training at the Commando Training Centre, and 'JT' was chuffed to bits at the thought of one day serving alongside him.
"Describing 'JT' as an 'awesome bloke' is a gross understatement. If he could help in any way, he would, no matter the request. I remember during training he worked out that our Survival Exercise was going to be near his house and using true Commando initiative he and a select few managed a shower and BBQ at his house.
"'JT' was an incredible young man who was an exceptional Royal Marine Officer and an unforgettable friend. He will be sorely missed."
Sergeant Darren 'Daz' Joyce, Fire Support Group Troop Sergeant of Charlie Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
"Lieutenant John 'JT' Thornton: A true leader and officer for his men. He led from the front, and in doing so quickly gained the utmost respect from all under his command. Always ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in both work and when ashore, be it in DPM or in Spartan Rig. It was an honour to serve alongside him and to call him a friend. He will be sorely missed our Spartan leader and Comrade."
Corporal Dominic 'Cash' Cashman, Fire Support Group Section Commander of Charlie Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, said:
"Lieutenant Thornton: A highly regarded and respected Troop Commander. 'JT' to his friends, he always had time for his charges, making their life easier anyway he could. Never one to shirk his duties he led from the front to inspire young and old members of the Troop alike. Wisdom beyond his years he truly was a leader of men and no words can convey the loss that his passing has brought."
Corporal Aaron 'Tiny' Winter, Section Commander of Charlie Company, said:
"Regarded by the lads as a proper 'Bootneck' Officer, he was liked and respected by the men of his troop and the company throughout. As a section commander in a rifle troop it often instilled confidence in me when his 'Whisky 1' callsign would report over the radio net that they had 'overwatch' as we the ground troops pushed forward. As we pushed forward and often took incoming fire it again was a massive relief and reassurance to hear that 'Whiskey 1' was suppressing enemy positions with Dave Marsh on the Grenade Machine Gun and JT's voice on the radio saying 'That's us suppressing now'."