Army Base Mourns Fallen Soldiers

Flags at half-mast at South Africa Road site


Sergeant Major Michael Williams (left) and Private Joe Whittaker

Sergeant Major Michael Williams (left) and Private Joe Whittaker (right). MOD Pictures


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Two flags are flying at half mast at the Territorial Army Centre in South Africa Road, following the deaths of two Parachute Regiment soldiers while serving in Afghanistan.

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Michael Williams of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) was killed on 24 June along with Private Joe Whittaker from 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment (4 PARA), who was based at the White City site.

4 PARA is a Territorial Army unit with bases across the U.K. and the regiment's 10 Company is stationed in South Africa Road, W12.

The TA is made up of volunteers who undergo military training in their spare time, but otherwise have civilian employment.

Private Joe Whittaker belonged to 4 PARA but was attached to 2 PARA, along with 47 others from his unit, for a tour of Afghanistan. He was killed by a suspected Improvised Explosive Device.

The 20-year-old joined the TA in 2005 and became part of 4 PARA at White City in October 2007. He volunteered to serve on operations in Afghanistan and was deployed there in April 2008, becoming part of a mine detection team.

Speaking about his fallen colleague, Lieutenant Steve Edwards, a 4 PARA Platoon Commander, said: "He had already passed his Officer Selection to enter Sandhurst, as well as the Army Air Corps' aptitude test, so he was looking forward to a career as a helicopter pilot. For Tuesday night training with 4 PARA, he travelled the best part of 200 miles, commuting from Stratford-Upon-Avon to his unit in London."

Joe's mother, Naomi Whittaker, said: "He has wanted to be in the army since joining the School Cadets at the age of 13. He chose to undertake a tour of duty as a private soldier with the Parachute Regiment before going to RMA Sandhurst next spring. We are so proud of him, his courage and his determination to serve his country."

Whittaker’s colleague, Sergeant Major Michael Williams, was killed on the same day during a firefight. He was on an operation against the Taliban in the Upper Sangin Valley when he was fatally wounded.

The 40-year-old, who belonged to 2 PARA, grew up in Cardiff. He joined the Army in 1986 and served in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

In 2003, soldiers from 4 PARA served during the invasion of Iraq and more recently, they have been in Iraq as part of the defence force around the UK logistics base.

Elements of 4 PARA are due to be in Afghanistan throughout 2008.

The Territorial Army, which was founded in 1908, celebrates its centenary this year.

Yasmine Estaphanos

27 June 2008