Northwood soldier killed in Afghanistan
A soldier from Northwood will be repatriated to RAF Brize Norton later today after he was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Private Thomas Christopher Lake, 29, from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR), died on Sunday 20 November. He was part of a patrol to reassure the local population in the Jamal Kowi area of the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province when he was caught in an explosion.
Pte Lake, who lived in Northwood, joined the Army in November 2009 and passed out of basic training in May 2010. He joined B Company, 1 PWRR in Germany shortly afterwards.
Upon joining his battalion he attended a number of courses – most notably the Assault Pioneers’ Course and the Team Medics’ Course, and he recently completed part one of the arduous Snipers’ Course in Brecon, Wales.
He deployed to Canada with 4 Platoon, B Company in July 2010, remaining with that platoon during the battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan. He is survived by his mother, Carol. She said: “Tom was a wonderful son and I will miss him more than I can say. He had so many friends who will remember him as a loyal, fun-loving action man who was always the first to try anything new and usually excelled at it. He died doing something he loved and believed in. I will always be proud of my boy.
Pte Lake’s fellow soldiers and officers paid tribute to him after he was killed in action.
Lieutenant Colonel James Coote, Commanding Officer, 1 PWRR, said: “Pte Lake’s untimely death has denied the battalion of one of its brightest soldiers; we are all the worse off for his loss. As ever, the sincerest tribute comes from his friends in his platoon who described him simply as ‘our best bloke’. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his mother Carol and with all those that had the honour to know him.”
Major Ross Noott, Officer Commanding B Company, 1 PWRR, said: “Professional to the end, he died as he had lived: serving his country with mates whose trust, respect and friendship he had earned and shared. An older brother to many in the company, soldiers looked to him for help and encouragement and were never disappointed.”
Second Lieutenant Rob Coates, 4 Platoon commander, 1 PWRR, said: “As both a person and a soldier Private Tom Lake excelled. One of the real characters in the platoon, he was a constant source of entertainment. Hours raced by when I was acting as watchkeeper with Private Lake on ‘stag’, due to his ability to chat endlessly on any topic. Private Lake lived with his mum Carol and he always made sure that he rang home regularly to see how she was.”
2Lt Coates added: “In the field, he proved himself a diligent, hardworking and conscientious soldier. He quickly learned how to build up a rapport with the locals and his sense of humour proved its worth many times over. He was the elder statesman of the platoon and as a result all of the lads looked up to him and sought his advice.
Sergeant Martin Caines, 4 Platoon Sergeant, said: “Private Lake was the best soldier in my platoon without a doubt. Always the first soldier to have his kit on, ready to take the fight to the enemy with his sharpshooter rifle. He and I were planning a trip to the Nürburgring on our bikes after we got back. It was a pleasure to have him under my command. It is a sad loss and he will be missed by me and B Company complete; missed but never forgotten.”
Corporal Oliver Kennedy, Section Commander, said: “Lakey, probably one of the best soldiers within the platoon – liked by everyone. An absolute hardworker and one of those people that would never have to be asked to do anything.”
Cpl Kennedy’s fellow section commander, Cpl Jonathan St Paul, added: “He was funny and always came out with some cracking banter and jokes. He was bright and cheery and morale was high with Tom around. He loved a brew and was always punching them back – the kettle was always on and water boiling with Tom.”
Lance Corporal James Nopps, section second-in-command, said: “He loved to play table tennis, which he was very good at, and some of the games we played out here were pretty tense. I will always remember singing ‘Rocky – Eye of the Tiger’ to him, as I had beaten him, and the way he said he would beat me in our next match.”
Private Zachary Myers, who served alongside Pte Lake, said: “I don’t wish to sound clichéd, but Tom was a top bloke. He always had a smile and a joke at the ready. If anybody needed to do something he would lend a hand. In the checkpoint he helped us waterproof our beds, built a shelter over the kitchen and was a great general handyman.
“He lived life to the full, be it riding his motorbike, sky diving or waterskiing. Anything he could try, he would. Tom was always putting other people before himself. “The night before we flew out he ordered us a curry and we all sat in my room and ate a last meal together. Tom was a great bloke and I’m glad to call him my friend. He will be sorely missed.”
Private William Keough, 4 Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, said: “How do you sum up the life of a close friend into a few paragraphs? Answer, you can’t. What you can do is remember the truly great things about them.
I know it’s a cliché to say that he was the heart and soul of the platoon and the best of the best, but I find myself stuck for any other way to describe him.
“Tom was the easiest guy in the platoon to get along with and he was both funny and smart. To me he was an older brother and someone I could confide in or talk complete rubbish with. He was always the first to lend a helping hand and without doubt the centre of the platoon’s morale.
“My lasting thought of Tom will be him in a bright green duvet jacket, brew in hand and smiling. He will forever be missed and never replaced; a great soldier and one of the best friends anyone could ask for.”