11.11.11 - Another South Yorkshire volunteer soldier becomes latest to make the ultimate sacrifice

Matthew Thornton

Matthew Thornton

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As the country pauses to remember the heroes who went into battle for their country a heartbroken family today paid tribute to their 28-year-old son, killed by an explosion in Afghanistan.

Matthew Thornton, from Barnsley, was a Territorial Army soldier with 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, who had volunteered for service in Afghanistan.

The ‘gifted, hard-working and determined’ soldier - a factory worker in civilian life - died on Wednesday while on patrol in the Babaji area of Helmand province.

He had celebrated his 28th birthday just days before, marking the occasion with a cake sent by his mother.

The Armistice Day two minute silence and wreath laying takes place at 11am today.

This year’s date - not only the 11th day of the 11th month, but also the 11th year - makes the occasion even more symbolic.

Armistice Day remembers not only those who died in the two world wars of the 20th century, but also the hundreds killed in more recent conflicts.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed the lives of 13 local servicemen - six soldiers, two Marines one airman and one TA soldier in Afghanistan, and three soldiers in Iraq.

Today families of the killed and injured called on everyone across South Yorkshire to join events in memory of those who have given their lives.

On Sunday, services will take place at war memorials around the county and parades will be staged in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Private Thornton’s mother Susan, father Michael, sister Sarah and brother Nathan have released a statement paying tribute to him.

They said: “Matthew was a dedicated soldier and passionate about the job. He loved what he was doing.

“He loved life and lived it to the full - in his work, in his role with the Territorial Army and in his leisure time.

“Matthew will be greatly missed by his family, his TA colleagues and his friends.

“His death leaves a huge hole in all our lives.”

Matthew, nicknamed ‘Thorney’, was a former pupil at Darton High School and worked for Barnsley firm Premdor, which makes door and window frames. In his spare time he was a keen snowboarder.

He signed up for the Territorial Army in 2004, but left three years later, only to re-enlist in 2009, eager to deploy to Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Crowley MC, commanding officer of 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said: “He missed the challenge, the comradeship and the banter. He was always the first to volunteer and help his company, professionally and socially.

“One of the reasons he re-enlisted was to do his bit and serve on operations in Afghanistan. When the opportunity came to mobilise he was one of the first to put his hand up.

“There was never a doubt he would be exactly the right man to deploy. He embraced the training he received, showing a professional attitude throughout some hard training in Wales and Germany.

“Private Matthew Thornton displayed that he had the volunteer ethos in spades. He was a fine soldier and an even finer man. We have lost one of our own. He was a true Yorkshire warrior.”

Matthew died on Wednesday while patrolling Babaji as part of Combined Force Lashkar Gah, on a mission to improve security.

During the patrol his multiple was engaged by small arms fire and grenades. While he was manoeuvring and returning fire, he was caught in the blast of an improvised explosive device.

Lt Col Dan Bradbury, commanding officer of 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment which Matthew accompanied in Afghanistan, called his death a tragedy.

“He was tragically killed on an operation to improve security in Helmand - a task we shall pursue in the finest traditions of the Yorkshire Regiment,” he said.

“Hugely respected by his comrades and commanders for his readiness to engage with any task he was given, willingly and without complaint, he is already missed.”

SOUTH YORKSHIRE’S ROLL OF HONOUR

- Private Ben Ford, aged 18, from Chesterfield, of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment. Killed by a roadside bomb near Lashkar Gah, Helmand, September 5, 2007.

- Sergeant Wayne Rees, aged 36, from Worksop, of the Queen’s Royal Lancers. Killed January 7, 2007, of injuries sustained from a road traffic accident while on operations in Maysan Province, Iraq.

- Trooper James Leverett, aged 20, from Rawmarsh, of the Royal Dragoon Guards, died July 5, 2010, Nahr-e-Saraj, Helmand, Afghanistan. Killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

- Corporal Richard Ivell, aged 24, from Doncaster, of the Royal Logistics Corps. Died February 12, 2004, in a road traffic accident at Shaibah Logistics Base in southern Iraq.

- Captain Martin Driver, aged 31, from Barnsley, of 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, died at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, where he was treated after being wounded in an explosion in Musa Qal’ah, Helmand, on the morning of February 21, 2010.

- Corporal Liam Riley, aged 21, from Killamarsh, of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. Died on February 1, 2010, in an explosion near Malgir, Helmand.

- Private Gavin Elliott, aged 19, from Woodsetts, of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment. Shot dead on foot patrol in Babaji, Helmand, September 3, 2009.

- Marine David Marsh, aged 23, from Thurgoland, near Penistone, of 40 Commando Royal Marines. Died in a vehicle explosion near Kajaki, Helmand, March 30, 2008.

- Senior Aircraftsman Christopher Bridge, 20, from Shiregreen, of the RAF Regiment. Killed in a explosion near Kandahar, Afghanistan, August 30, 2007.

- Kingsman Alex Green, aged 21, from Warrington but whose father lives in Sheffield, of 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. Shot dead in Basra, January 13, 2007.

- Rifleman Liam Maughan, aged 19, from Hatfield, Doncaster, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, killed on March 6, 2010, after being shot near Sangin, Helmand.

- Lance Corporal Steven ‘Jamie’ Fellows, aged 26, from Parson Cross, of 45 Commando Royal Marines. Killed December 12, 2008, when his vehicle was blown up in Sangin, Helmand.

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