On Saturday, 8th September 2007 in southern Afghanistan Craig Brelsford and Johan Botha were tragically killed in a firefight with the Taliban. A number of other soldiers were also injured in the incident, two were in a serious condition. They were all taking part in a pre-planned operation to disrupt Taliban activity, south of Garmsir, southern Helmand Province, when their patrol was attacked by enemy fighters shortly after 12.45am local time. Sadly Craig and Johan were both killed during the subsequent heavy firefight to repel the enemy. A number of Taliban were also killed.
Craig Brelsford was serving as a Sergeant with 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters). He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry for his actions leading to his death on 8th September 2007.
Sergeant Craig Brelsford of A (Grenadier) Company, 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), was born on 16 September 1981; he was days away from his 26th birthday. From Nottingham, he was enlisted into the Army on 6 April 1999 and joined 1st Battalion, Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters (29th/45th of Foot), just as the Battalion deployed to Omagh, Northern Ireland, in December of the same year.
Sergeant Brelsford served in Northern Ireland on three operational tours and had previously served in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 1 in 2004. Additionally he had deployed with his Battalion to Belize (on two occasions) and Kenya on arduous exercises.
Lieutenant Colonel Simon Banton, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), said:
"Sergeant Craig Brelsford was a hugely popular man and a superb senior non-commissioned officer; fit, strong and robust, he led from the front. It is unsurprising that he fell while attempting to rescue wounded soldiers under enemy fire. Junior soldiers were inspired by him and aspired to follow the example he set. He was assured a bright future and had an enormous amount of potential. His death is keenly felt across the Battalion. He will be sorely missed."
Major Jamie Nowell, Officer Commanding A (Grenadier) Company, said:
"Sergeant Craig Brelsford served as a Platoon Sergeant in No 3 Platoon and was a rising star in the Regiment. Despite his relative youth he was incredibly talented and possessed potential and maturity beyond his years. Sergeant Brelsford was one of the most dedicated, professional and highly focused Infantry commanders I have been privileged to work with. He died maintaining the incredibly high standards he lived for and protecting his soldiers' lives – his troops always came first.
"Charismatic, intelligent, tough and robust; Sergeant Brelsford was the perfect Infantry commander. I am convinced that if he had been given the opportunity to choreograph his own death it would not have been dissimilar to the heroic circumstances in which he died. Sergeant Brelsford was killed in action attacking a well defended Taliban position in an attempt to protect and evacuate his wounded comrades. He repeatedly fought through tenacious enemy fire to extract casualties and was hit on his final attack to find Private Botha, also killed in action, who had fallen behind enemy lines - this exceptionally courageous act of bravery and selfless commitment personified the character of Sergeant Brelsford.
"Sergeant Brelsford was not only the consummate professional, he was extremely popular with a friendly, outgoing and mischievous sense of humour which endeared him to everyone. He was idolised by his troops and held in high esteem by his peers. The loss of Sergeant Brelsford is a deep wound to his Company and the wider Battalion. He will be missed by all of us and forgotten by none – it will take some considerable time for the wounds and sense of loss to heal. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends who have lost an exceptional young man."
Company Sergeant Major Pete Lewis, A (Grenadier) Company, said:
"'Brels' arrived in the Company a year ago and took over 3 Platoon where he immediately stamped his authority and leadership style on the Platoon, turning it into an excellent team. From the first time I met Sergeant Brelsford he was a pillar to me and somebody I could trust and rely on. In the field he was second to none; one of the best soldiers I have had the honour of working with. There will be a void in the Company where he stood, alongside his soldiers to the end. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten."
Lieutenant Simon Cupples and Second Lieutenant Andy Bell, his Platoon Commanders, said:
"Sergeant Brelsford was an extremely professional soldier. He was respected and liked a great deal by the Platoon – something which is not an easy task for a Platoon Sergeant considering the nature of the job. His impressive rise through the ranks and the wealth of knowledge he possessed were reflected in his actions on the ground throughout the tour. His sense of humour led to a natural rapport with everyone he met. Throughout the whole tour Sergeant Brelsford, time and time again, demonstrated calm and considered leadership under pressure and incredible bravery in the face of the enemy. The night he died was no exception to this.
"His death has left a huge gap in both his Platoon and Company and he will be remembered not only for how he served his Platoon, but also as a friend and talented military commander."
Corporal Rocco Zecca, Section Commander and close friend, said:
"I first met Sgt Brelsford when I arrived at the Battalion and he was placed in my Platoon. He had arrived five days before me which basically made us the 'new blokes'.
"As a soldier Sergeant Brelsford was very well respected because, despite having only served eight years in the Army, he was recognised as a flyer. He had managed to promote quickly and the amount of courses he had completed in his eight years far exceeded what most would accomplish in their full twenty two. Sergeant Brelsford will always be remembered by 3 Platoon for being a great leader of men as well as a true friend."
Private Paul Bood and Private Samuel Murray, soldiers in Sergeant Brelsford's Platoon, said:
"Sergeant Brelsford will be missed by us all, as he was an excellent Platoon Sergeant and a great friend to everyone. He was a funny man and we will all miss his stories, especially the one about the 'armpit'. His death has hit us all in many different ways. He will be missed not just by the Platoon but by everyone who knew him. He will always be in our hearts and minds."