Royal Fusilier Cpl Joseph Etch Etchells - RIP


Book Reviewer
Excuse the intrusion gents.

A post in Current Affairs links to a piece by reporter Michael Yon, currently working in FOB Jackson, Sangin with UKFOR.

I thought friends and collleagues might wish to see.


On August 11, I attended a small ceremony for a British soldier from this base in Helmand who was killed in combat the day after Benjamin passed. His name was Joseph Etchells. I was told how Joseph died in a bomb ambush, and that his last request was to be cremated, loaded into a firework, and launched over the park where he used to play as a kid. When Joseph’s last request was explained, I burst out laughing and the British soldier who told me also was laughing. The absurd humor of Joseph’s request was familiar, and it was as though Joseph were standing there with us, laughing away.

Joseph Etchells from 3 Plt, 2 Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was attached to 1 Plt, 2 Rifles

Joseph Etchells from 3 Plt, 2 Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was attached to 1 Plt, 2 Rifles

Lieutenant Alan Williamson was “Joey’s” platoon commander here in Sangin. LT Williams said that the other soldiers called him “Etch,” or Joey, and that Etch was born in 1987. He joined the army at age 16, though he could not deploy for combat until he was 18. Etch did a tour in Northern Ireland and three tours in Afghanistan, including 2006 in Now Zad where he endured 107 days of straight combat wherein they fought literally every day. In 2007 Etch deployed to Kabul and then performed “Public Duty” by guarding the Queen outside the palaces.

Lt Williams said that Etch was a, “Young and very keen Section Commander. Most Section Commanders like to be a few men back so they can command without being in immediate danger, but “Etch” refused to be that far back, and was always right behind the [“point man.] He was an outstanding runner. He left his fiancé behind. He would have been a very young sergeant. He was an outstanding, outstanding soldier.”

Joseph Etchells and Benjamin Kopp were both Corporals in different armies. Both had served three combat tours. Ben was 21, Etch was 22, and they both fought their last battles in Helmand Province. The names of these British and American warriors are listed consecutively in a roster chronicling our sacrifices in Afghanistan.

Last month there had been a large service here for Etch, but I witnessed a much smaller service where those closer to him came together to pay final respects. This service in Sangin occurred on the same day that a final ceremony was being held back in the United Kingdom. About twenty soldiers attended. The event was quiet and respectful and I wanted to be back in the United Kingdom to salute the rocket launch as it carried away the payload of Joey’s ashes, and exploded over the park. Here in Sangin, the bugler played and his buddies tossed their cap feathers into the Helmand River. The red and white feathers drifted away in the same waters where Etch used to swim after missions, down into the desert. Here they call it the “Dashti Margo,” the Desert of Death.

Rest in peace feller.

Lee Shaver