On Sunday, 15th March 2009 in southern Afghanistan Dean John and Graeme Stiff had been conducting a vehicle move to the west of Garmsir in Helmand province. They had been travelling in a Jackal patrol vehicle when, at about 1630 hours local time, it was struck by an explosive device and they were both killed.
Dean Thomas John was a Corporal in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He and Corporal Graeme Stiff were members of the Light Aid Detachment of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDG).
Corporal Dean John, aged 25, was born and bred in Neath, South Wales. His hometown is Port Talbot in Wales. He joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in August 2000 and after passing out of basic training was posted to 12th Regiment Royal Artillery in Germany. His subsequent postings were also to Germany based units: 1st Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards.
He had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and was on his second tour of Afghanistan as a Vehicle Mechanic in the Fitter Section of A Squadron, QDG. He was married to Wendy and father to three sons - Ethan, Harvey, and Dylan.
Corporal John was the epitome of a REME soldier: enthusiastic, determined, selfless, hardworking and loyal. He was a happy and loveable rogue who could always be found up to his elbows in the engine compartment of any vehicle that even looked like it needed some work.
He had an enormous appetite for hard work and a tenacity that drove him to extraordinary lengths to fix problems. His inquisitive and active mind would analyse why some component had failed and seek a solution to avoid a reoccurrence. His consummate professionalism and wonderfully fun character made him a universally popular and respected member of the Fitter Section, Squadron and Regiment. He had a very bright future, having won an award for being the joint best Non-Commissioned Officer in the Light Aid Detachment of the Queen's Dragoon Guards and receiving a recommendation for Artificer training.
He was an avid motocross fan and had an addiction to anything mechanical. He loved his job and his mates and was never one to miss a party, but he was also a devoted husband and father. In the quieter moments of the tour he would speak lovingly of Wendy and with immense pride of his three boys. He leaves behind a gap in the Regiment, Squadron and Fitter Section that is irreplaceable and an even greater hole in a young family.
Dean's wife, Wendy, paid the following tribute:
"Dean was a much loved husband and father and treasured by all his family. He will be fondly remembered. Dean died doing the job he loved, fighting for his queen and country. He was our hero and will live on in our hearts. Dean lived life to the full and was always happy and smiling. He will be greatly missed."
Lieutenant Colonel Alan Richmond, Commanding Officer QDG, said:
"The loss of Dean John has cast a dark shadow over the Regiment. He had been part of our Regimental family for almost three years. He was a huge character who had a reputation for hard work and professionalism, capped with a wonderful sense of humour and love of practical jokes. He was a proud Welshman who loved his job, his friends and his family. He was one of the most incredible mechanics with whom I have had the privilege of serving alongside; so utterly dependable that people fought to secure his services.
"He was universally popular and so widely respected because of his incredible capacity for hard work and tenacious determination to fix everything mechanical. He was also so clearly happy in his work and had such a bright future ahead of him. Dean's death is a great loss to all of us in the Queen's Dragoon Guards. We will remember him and our thoughts are with Wendy and his family at this most painful times."
Major Charlie Waggett, Squadron Leader, A Sqn, QDG, said:
"At a time like this it is hard to put into words the sense of the loss felt by so many people for such a lovely bloke, for such a top man. Cpl Dean John was the best of so many things – always so bright and cheery, I cannot remember a moment when he did not seem to be at the top of his game.
"He was incredibly dedicated to his role, and he was immensely good at it. The amount of hours that he dug out to ensure that the Squadron's vehicles were task-worthy cannot even be fathomed. In recently writing a proposal for a commendation for his efforts on this tour, I commented on his 'unwavering professionalism', his 'determination to succeed', and his 'remarkable trade ability'.
"But Corporal John was so much more than just an excellent soldier. We, his friends, in the Fitter Section, in the Squadron, in the Regiment and in the REME, have lost someone who truly was a little bit special: someone who would always smile even when the chips were down. Someone who had a mischievous glint in his eye and an enormous sense of fun in his character; and someone who was there for other people.
"But our sense of loss is nothing compared to that of his wife and three young sons that he leaves behind, and to whom our thoughts and support must now turn, and to whom we can only offer our deepest and most sincere condolences at this tragic time."
Captain David Toland, Officer Commanding QDG Light Aid Detachment, said:
"Corporal Dean John could not have been a funnier, more hard-working soldier and engineer who would do anything for anyone. He was a hugely knowledgeable REME mechanic that demanded the best of his soldiers and accepted nothing less from himself. He was often found at his happiest when deprived of sleep, cursing away and completely covered in oil having fixed a vehicle; I don't think there was anything he could not fix.
"Throughout his time in the Light Aid Detachment it has always been obvious he was one of the best of his generation with the world at his feet. This is a complete blow for all of his friends and colleagues who could not fail to love this larger than life personality; he was at the heart of his Fitter Section and the Detachment. Our thoughts are with his wife and young family for whom words cannot describe how sorry we are that they have lost such a great man from their lives. He was an inspiration to us all and will never be forgotten."
Staff Sergeant Marcus Waugh, Troop Leader of Fitter Section, A Sqn, QDG, said:
"One of the remarkable things apparent by the contribution Dean made, both personally and professionally; was the amount of praise he received from the chain of command. Dean was never happier than when he was 'balls deep', his words; and by that he meant contributing at the top of his game. This was the environment where Dean performed to the highest of his abilities and showed all too clearly his true potential.
"Under pressure, and in the face of adverse conditions, he was a man who could be relied upon. On those occasions when a job absolutely must be done, he was always the first choice."
"When trouble struck his tenacious efforts, enthusiasm and clinical detail were a driving force, revitalizing initiative on the ground and regaining the momentum in favour of his commander's intent, which he understood impeccably. His resolve was tireless and he worked endlessly to ensure that the Squadron had the level of support it required to sustain operations.
"The Troop Leaders of the Squadron were particular fans of Dean's attributes, and would competitively lace their bids for his support of their patrols, requesting whether 'Corporal John available for this one?' He was a man of selfless commitment who took it upon himself to ensure that all the junior and more senior members of the Squadron received the guidance and mentoring they needed to improve their abilities."
"In his private life, Dean was a devoted family man. He treasured his wife and was fiercely proud of his three boys. He would regularly recite the accomplishments and escapades of his sons, often openly displaying his unwavering love for his family. Our thoughts and support go to Dean's family and loved ones throughout this unimaginably difficult time."
Sergeant Jamie Scott, Troop Sergeant of Fitter Section, A Sqn, QDG, said:
"Dean had a love of life and for his job that was unmatched by anyone else in the Squadron. He was always ready to volunteer for any task, and would carry it out in an utterly professional manner. His moods were easy to read. If happy, he would bounce around using the word 'mint' a lot; and if a bit hacked off he would make it clear, yet still with that cheeky smile on his face.
"All knew that he was never happier than when covered head to toe in oil, no matter what the weather conditions, or how long he had been on the go. His love of the job earned him the respect of all the members of the Squadron and the Regiment. He would offer advice and guidance whenever a problem was encountered, which combined with his personal bearing and uncanny ability to be correct in his thoughts, made him a special role model to those around him.
"Out of work Dean was a very friendly and sociable person, always the first to help others to relax. A main character in the 'Salisbury Shapes' club where he would take younger members of the Fitter Section on cultural visits to the "Cathedral" of the city, which as it turns out was the name of the main nightclub!
"Dean would often talk of his wife, Wendy, and it was clear to all that he loved her and his children dearly. Wherever he is now, he will be missing them as much as they will be missing him. As he would say, "at the end of the day", Deano was a central figure in the Fitter Section and the Squadron, both in and out of work. The knowledge and experiences he passed onto all of us, and the memories we have of him will stay with us forever."