The proud family of a south Somerset soldier will today remember him at Westminster Abbey just weeks after he died in Afghanistan.
Captain James Townley, from Barton St David, was serving with 21 Regiment Royal Engineers when he died at Camp Bastion in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan on September 21, just a day before his 30th birthday.
Today his parents, Peter and Jacqui Townley will place a cross in the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, ahead of ceremonies around the country to remember Britain’s war dead.
On Sunday Captain Townley will be remembered locally in Remembrance services at Barton St David and at the Church of St Peter in Lydford-on-Fosse. But for his parents the sense of loss is still very fresh.
Mr Townley said: “Our initial shock has just rolled on. The hurt doesn’t go away. We think of him all the time. We were so proud of him.”
According to the Ministry of Defence, Captain Townley died from wounds sustained while serving at Forward Operating Base Shawqat. An investigation into his death is ongoing.
Mr and Mrs Townley say they still do not know how their son died, adding to their sorrow.
Captain Townley was a keen sportsman. He enjoyed adventure sports including skiing, mountain biking, kite surfing, diving and sailing.
The eldest of two brothers, James Townley moved with his parents to Barton St David at the age of 12 and was a student at Sexey’s School in Bruton. He achieved a first class degree in engineering and computer Science from Oxford University in May 2006 before pursuing a career in the Army.
Mr Townley said: “The world was his oyster and he could have done anything he wanted to, but James craved the excitement the Army had to offer.”
During his officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2007, his platoon were named the Sovereigns Platoon and had the honour of leading the passing-out parade. Captain Townley and his colleagues in the platoon received a letter of congratulation from The Queen.
Captain Townley’s parents last saw him alive when they said goodbye at Castle Cary train station on September 2.
Mr Townley said: “He looked the part. He was dressed in his uniform with a huge rucksack. Everyone was looking at him and we were so proud.”
Mr Townley said his son was making plans to leave the Army after returning from the tour.
Mr Townley said: “I still think there was a lot he could have offered the Army and a lot it could have offered him but it would have been nice to have him home safe with us.”
Mr and Mrs Townley were in the United States of America at the time of their son’s death. The tragic news was broken to them by a member of staff from the British Embassy in Washington DC.
The couple have praised the support they received from the Army since their son’s death, particularly help received from visiting officer Captain Mark Walker.
They have also received hundreds of letters from people who knew their son.
One, from his favourite teacher at Sexey’s School, said the school is currently adding Captain Townley’s name to the school’s roll of honour.
Mr and Mrs Townley are now hoping to set up a memorial fund in their son’s name, which will help disadvantaged young people benefit from the kind of adventurous travel Captain Townley loved.
Mr Townley said: “James really lived up to the engineers’ motto ‘ubiqe’ which means everywhere.
“We hope James can inspire another generation of young adults. This will be his lasting legacy.”