On Wednesday, 14th November 2007 in southern Afghanistan John McDermid was leading a joint UK and Afghan National Army patrol to the south of the district centre of Sangin in Helmand Province, during which he was also mentoring an Afghan National Army officer in the leadership and infantry skills that platoon commanders need.
At approximately 11.30am local time an Improvised Explosive Device detonated, which sadly resulted in the death of Captain McDermid and serious injury to the Afghan interpreter who was accompanying him.
John McDermid was a Captain in the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland serving with 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
Captain John McDermid, aged 43 and born in Glasgow joined 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers in 1983 and served 21 years as a soldier and three years as an officer. In a distinguished career, he served in Berlin, Canada, Kenya, Cyprus and Belize, conducting two tours in Bosnia as part of the UNPROFOR mission and one in Kosovo as part of the NATO deployment. He completed four Northern Ireland tours and a further tour in Iraq cemented his standing as a hugely experienced, skilled, knowledgeable and capable soldier.
His quality was identified early on and he rose quickly through the ranks. As a first-rate Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, he was selected to instruct officers at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he excelled. On return to the Battalion he served as Company Quarter Master Sergeant, Company Sergeant Major and Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant before promotion to Warrant Officer 1st Class as Regimental Sergeant Major of The Royal Highland Fusiliers in 2002. His performance there was typically outstanding.
He was commissioned in June 2004 and, initially, led the Regimental Recruiting Team based in Glasgow. His energetic and engaging approach overhauled recruitment. His subsequent appointment was as Unit Welfare Officer where he oversaw the move of the Battalion (now The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) from Cyprus to Glencorse Barracks, Edinburgh.
Captain McDermid was posted to a staff appointment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in early 2007. Always a field soldier, he volunteered for operational service in Afghanistan. In September 2007, he was attached to 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a member of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, tasked with training the Afghan National Army. As a mentor, he was responsible for developing the leadership and infantry skills of platoon or company commanders.
Captain McDermid leaves behind his wife Gill, and three children. The family said:
"John's family and friends are devastated by this loss. John was such an important part of their lives and his death has left a void that can never be filled. Every one who knew John knew how loving, dedicated, strong, hilarious and truly wonderful he was. Although very much a family man, John's sense of duty and responsibility were never overlooked."
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Harkness MBE, Commanding Officer of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, said:
"Captain John McDermid represented everything that is special about both the Army and The Royal Highland Fusiliers. From Fusilier to Regimental Sergeant Major, his 21 years service as a soldier was notable for its professionalism, commitment and loyalty. His exceptional qualities led to him being commissioned into the Regiment that he loved and into which he had devoted so much of his time and energy. Since his commissioning in 2004 he had continued to serve with the Battalion in both Cyprus and Scotland, where his exceptional talents remained evident amongst the Regimental family.
"Captain John McDermid was a friend and mentor to everyone. He loved the Army and everything that it represented. It came as no surprise to those who knew him that he had volunteered to go to Afghanistan as soldiering was in his blood. Held in the highest regard by all ranks, he occupied a unique place in everyone's hearts and minds. His death will leave a gap in all our lives that will never be filled. Today we have lost a friend and colleague, but his memory will live on within the Battalion and amongst those fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, now and always."
Lieutenant Colonel Simon Downey MBE, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said:
"Captain John McDermid was an exceptional soldier, officer and man. Deeply able, hugely energetic, and an accomplished, compassionate and encouraging leader, he rose rapidly through the ranks from private soldier to captain, excelling at every stage. Attached to 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a member of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, he made an immediate and thoroughly positive impact. Good natured, good company but with an inner steel, he was a very popular and key member of the mentoring team.
"Whether it was training the Afghans or commanding on operations, he was always at the forefront - seeking the best, encouraging and re-assuring those around him and leading by example. His command in Sangin was simply inspirational. Captain John McDermid's loss is a heavy blow to us all. We have lost, in John, a good comrade and an outstanding officer. He will be sorely missed, but we take great strength from his friendship, his example and his determination to make a difference for the people of Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family - his wife Gill and his three children."
Major Barrie Terry, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, said:
"Captain John McDermid was a first rate officer. He was a charismatic leader, who had vast experience and a real flair for command. He was a loving husband to Gill and father to his children. Typically, he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan and join the Combat Support Operational Mentoring Liaison Team. A highly qualified Late Entry Commissioned Officer and exceptional instructor; he was ideally placed to mentor the Afghan National Army and prepare the less experienced members of his mentoring team.
"Deployed to Sangin, John was energetic in taking forward operations against the Taliban. Characteristically, he was always at the forefront of everything his team did, leading by example. A professional and committed soldier, he had already achieved so much, as a Colour Sergeant Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Regimental Sergeant Major of 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers, and he had a bright future ahead of him.
"With his quick sense of humour and a warm but no-nonsense approach, he was extremely popular; he will be very much missed by all who knew him. The British Army has lost an able and devoted servant. My thoughts are with his family as they cope with this tragic and devastating news."
His close friend, Captain Ekbahadur 'Ek' Gurung, of 36 Engineer Regiment, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, said:
"He was a Scot who was professional and committed to his job. He was absolutely dedicated to his family and children. His pictures and stories reflected his love for his family. His knowledge of the infantry role and tactics was first class and this knowledge has been responsible for the safety of the whole Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team. We will miss the compassion that he showed to every one regardless of rank."
Captain John ‘Dud' Southam, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, Queen's Royal Lancers, said:
"I first met Captain John McDermid just prior to the deployment and was immediately struck by his warmth and good humour and with his ability to make friends very quickly. During the deployment it became very clear that his professionalism and drive were immense and that he was an inspiration to all who worked with him. The fact that even after almost 25 years of service he continued to set standards for others to follow speaks volumes for the kind of soldier he was. Sadly, John ultimately lost his life doing the one job he had always excelled at: being an exceptional soldier who knew only one way, that of leading from the front.
"The loss of Captain John McDermid I know will leave a large hole in people's lives across the Army, but our thoughts are with his family. Their loss is immeasurably more than ours can ever be. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time."
Captain James Manchip, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery, said
"Captain John McDermid was a softly spoken and very likeable character. He was a consummate professional and took a keen interest in his soldiers' well being. He always led from the front and would do everything he expected his soldiers to do, often putting himself in harm's way ahead of his soldiers. All found him approachable and easy to talk to. He always showed a genuine interest in other people's lives and in getting to know them. He will be much missed."
Sergeant Whelan, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery, said:
"Foremost we knew him as a strong soldier who enjoyed commanding us. He believed what we were doing in Afghanistan was right and gave up his desk job to be here. He spoke a lot about his family and was most proud last week that his son was in a military cadet parade in his kit and couldn't wait to see the photos. He had a strong bond with his men and with the Afghan National Army, who like us, are heartbroken at the events."