Fresh tributes have been paid to a Somerset soldier who died in Afghanistan – on the day his body was returned to the UK.
A private ceremony was held at RAF Brize Norton for Captain James Townley, from 28 Engineer Regiment, Corps of Royal Engineers and Sergeant Jonathan Kups, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, before the cortege travelled to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, via the Memorial Garden.
Captain Townley, who would have turned 30 the day after he died, was born in Tunbridge Wells and grew up in Barton St David, Somerset. The first-class graduate of University College Oxford, who left a promising career in accountancy to join the Army, died in Camp Bastion, Helmand, in southern Afghanistan from wounds sustained while serving at forward operating base Shawqat last Friday.
His family said in a statement: “James was a wonderful, loving and caring son and brother. He was devoted to his girlfriend, Helen. He was our guardian angel and our hero. We were so proud of him. He touched every part of our lives and his loss has left a huge chasm that we can never fill.”
Raymond McGovern, headteacher at Sexey’s School in Bruton, Somerset, where he boarded from 1994 to 2001, said: “Everyone in the Sexey’s community has been saddened by the news.
“Those who knew him speak very highly of a young man who had a clear ambition to serve his county, which he did with pride and honour. As a community our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. His name will be added to the school’s memorial boards which remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.”
Sergeant Kups, a husband and father of three children from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, died the same day as Captain Townley. An electronics technician, the 38-year-old was described by his commanding officer as “a man of real substance”.
In a statement, his family said: “Jonathan was a wonderful husband and loving father to three children. He was a loyal man with a wide circle of friends, a devoted son, son-in-law, grandson and brother.”
His children described him as “the best Dad: our hero”.
The Ministry of Defence said neither death was the result of hostile action, though investigations are continuing.