Friday, March 25, 2011

Some Gave All: Major Matthew James Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan

Major Matthew James Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan killed in Afghanistan

25 Mar 11

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Major Matthew James Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan, both from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday 23 March 2011.

Both soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device after returning from an operation in support of an Afghan National Army Company, alongside C Company of the Danish Battle Group, to disrupt insurgent activity and search compounds of interest in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

Major Matthew Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan, 1st Battalion Irish Guards (Pictures: via MOD)

Major Matthew James Collins

Major Collins, aged 38 came from Backwell in Somerset. He commissioned into the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in August 1996, and travelled all over the world with the Battalion, serving operationally in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on exercise in Belize, Kenya, Oman and the Falkland Islands.

Major Collins was the Company Commander of Number 3 Company and deployed on Operation HERRICK 13 as the Commander of the Advisory Team to the 3rd Kandak of the UK's partnered Afghan Brigade. In this role, through his professional excellence, natural intelligence and force of personality, he has made a significant improvement to the operational capability of the Afghan soldiers and officers he advised.

Major Collins was passionate about his family. He spoke often of his wife, Lucy, his daughter, Freya, and his son, Charlie. He also leaves behind his father, Derek, mother Tricia, and brothers, Mark, Nick and Chris. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

The family of Major Collins have made the following statement:

"Not only a soldier but a caring husband, devoted father to Freya and Charlie, caring son, wonderful brother and friend to many. We will all miss him and remember him always."

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, said:

"The loss of Major Matt Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan yesterday has been a devastating blow to the Irish Guards. Two more committed and professional soldiers it would be hard to meet; they epitomised what it meant to be a member of this family regiment.

"Major Matt Collins first came to the Battalion for a university attachment while we were on exercise in Canada in 1994. From that moment, he made his mark on all those he came across.

"An excellent performance at Sandhurst, and instructors recommendations on the platoon commanders' and mortar course were no surprise to those who worked with him. He had the chance to show his quality widely: he served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Iraq and more recently Afghanistan.

"He was a 'Support Company man' to his very core. His affinity for the senior soldiers who make up the specialist weapons cadre of the Battalion was legendary. He understood them, respected them, fought their corner at every turn and they loved him for it. He developed this large command into a cohesive, determined and proud group thereby setting the conditions for the success his Company have enjoyed in Afghanistan.

"This tour of Afghanistan gave Matt Collins the chance he wanted to shine as a field commander and to develop the Afghan Army with whom he was grouped. Central to every one of the operations we have undertaken over the tour, he led from the front both physically and in how he conducted himself.

Major Matthew Collins

Major Matthew Collins, 1st Battalion Irish Guards
[Picture: via MOD]

"Equally at home advising the Kandak Commander, or explaining the rudiments of infantry tactics to a new and young Afghan soldier, he was never satisfied unless he was setting standards, driving progress and providing the lead for his devoted Guardsmen. It is a telling fact that there is a deep sense of sorrow hanging over the 3rd Kandak of the Afghan Brigade today, such is the respect in which they held Matt Collins.

"But most of all, Matt was a loving family man to Lucy, his wife, his children Freya and Charlie, his parents and three other brothers. Their loss is incalculably greater than ours; to them we offer our very sincere condolences."

Major Fabian Roberts, Second in Command, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"I am immensely proud to have known Major Matt Collins for 15 years. He was one whose combination of unquenchable enthusiasm, fundamental kindness and selfless determination marked him as every inch what a Mick Officer should be.

"He was so much more than his achievements in Afghanistan, but those achievements themselves have been immense, and there is no doubt this country, and the Infantry Kandak he advised in particular, are both the better for his contribution to them.

"He loved the Army, and he relished the challenge and hardships of the job he has done for the last six months. This commitment could not fail to rub off on those around him, and he made a profound mark on all, whatever the rank, and whatever the nationality. He was amongst the most well-loved officers I have known.

"Matt was a true friend and a true Mick, and clearly - and above all - absolutely devoted to Lucy, Freya and Charlie. Our prayers are with them. Quis Separabit."

Major Mickey Stewart, Company Commander, Number 4 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"My friend of sixteen years Matt Collins was an extraordinary man with a passion for life, his Regiment and his family that few could surpass. Whether skydiving or field sports, ski touring or knowing every single verse to the 'Irish Rover' by heart, Matt had an indomitable spirit. By definition this strength of character made Matt the perfect infantryman.

"He was an exceptional soldier. However, Matt added to the equation loyalty to his Regiment, an infectious sense of humour and love of his Guardsmen which made him the perfect 'Mick.'

"Only the love for his family beat the dedication for his job and I know this because he told me often enough. Matt's family were the most important thing in his life. I feel privileged however that I will always be able to remember my friend with a song in his heart, a Guinness in his hand and how we shared so many life affirming moments together."

Major John Plummer, Operations Officer, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Matt was a friend and a brother. The enormous hole that has been left in our family is indescribable. We will continue to love him as he loved all of us. Goodbye and God bless. Quis Separabit."

Captain Ben Irwin-Clark, Company Second in Command, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Major Matt Collins was an exceptional Officer. He was passionate in temperament, and about his job and his men. Having served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, his experience and wisdom were enormous and worthy of huge respect.

"As a soldier he was tough and uncompromising, insisting on high standards from himself and those he worked with, and known for his excellent tactical sense and calm approach to even the hardest situations. He espoused the Company values which he himself devised - Loyalty, Excellence and Fortitude. For good reason he was known to all, whether subordinates, peers or those senior to him, as 'Boss'.

"He was every inch a leader. As a commander and friend, Matt was quick to laugh and fiercely loyal. His sense of humour was second to none, and he would often joke ruefully about his quick temper, which never flared for more than a minute before being replaced by the humorous and jocular manner his soldiers loved.

"Major Matt Collins represented the best of the Household Division - he was smart, fit, dependable, intelligent and utterly gentlemanly. I count it an honour to have served as his Second in Command, been considered his friend, and to have had the opportunity to learn from him."

Captain Matt Clarke, Tolay Advisor, Advisor 30, said:

"Major Matt Collins seamlessly achieved a unique blend of utter professionalism and vibrant personality found only in the best commanders. It is these characteristics, combined with his relentless energy, which have driven everyone in Number 3 Company to achieve great success during a difficult operational deployment."

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Stephen McMichael 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Major Collins was an exceptional officer, a man who commanded respect. He always led by example, and was a Company Commander who had time for all within his Company. Number 3 Company was a better place with Major Collins at the helm. His drive, passion and enthusiasm shone through the Company. Not only was Major Collins an outstanding Officer, but a family man - a loving father and husband who was inspiration to all of us within the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. Quis Separabit."

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Richie Sixsmith, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Major Collins and I joined Number 3 Company at the same time. Back then it was still Support Company, but he had come to speak to me at great length about changing the name to Number 3 Company.

"His thinking was that, even though all the elements within the Company had their own special skill, the real driving factor behind it was our basic infantry skills, and he wanted us on the same plane as the Rifle Companies.

"This was duly accepted by the Commanding Officer, and Number 3 Company was reborn. We had always been Number 3 Company - someone had thought a while ago that 'Support Company' sounded better - but not Boss Collins.

"In rebranding the Company he came up with three pillars of success, these are symbolised on our Company Colour, and are Loyalty, Excellence and Fortitude. All members of the Company embraced this attitude, and it proved itself when we were split as a Company and spread to all elements for the tour in Afghanistan. There are members of Number 3 Company in every location in which there are Irish Guardsmen.

"Major Collins was a true professional, and he epitomised what Number 3 Company stands for. He always led from the front and was never afraid to do the legwork. He believed in doing the basics well, and was as at home on the battlefield as he was doing staff work.

"His legacy shall live on through the Irish Guards, and I personally shall never forget him. He definitely taught me a thing or two. I will continue to lean on the three pillars, and use them as the teachings of Major Collins: friend, leader, and soldier until his last breath."

Lance Corporal Chris Duddy, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Major Collins was an excellent Commander and a very professional man. We sometimes had very funny moments which made me laugh. Major Collins will be truly missed; my thoughts go to his family."

Guardsman Ray Thompson, Advisor 30, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Dear Mrs Collins, It was an honour to be commanded by such a brave and honourable leader. I couldn't have chosen a better Company Commander to have served under; it was a privilege. His children will be proud to have had such a loving father. My thoughts are with you all."

Guardsman Jack Griffiths, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"As my Company Commander he was very professional in his job, and made sure that he commanded us to the best of his ability, no matter how strenuous the situation. He always made the right decisions and it was a joy to have the opportunity to work with him throughout the tour. He will be sorely missed by those who worked closely with him, and my thoughts go to his family and friends."

Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan

Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan, 1st Battalion Irish Guards
[Picture: via MOD]

Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan

Lance Sergeant Burgan (28) came from Liverpool, and joined the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in 1999. He served on Operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He rose to the rank of Lance Sergeant, joined the Battalion Signals Platoon, becoming a Signals Detachment Commander - a job at which he was hugely capable.

However, his skills stretched far beyond this. He was an extremely talented junior commander, professional in every way; this, coupled with his consummate loyalty to his friends and family made him a man his subordinates strove to emulate. A man who genuinely loved his job, he saw the Signals Platoon as being one big family, and one of which he was a key part.

Lance Sergeant Burgan was a strong family man to his core. He leaves behind his wife, Leanne, as well as his parents, Terry and Rita, and sisters, Laura, Kate and Jayne, and we offer our deepest condolences.

Mrs Leanne Burgan, the wife of Lance Sergeant Burgan, has made the following statement:

"I am so honoured to be Mark's wife. I will always love my hero. Mark was an extremely proud Irish Guardsman, dad, husband, brother and son. He will forever be in our hearts."

Terry Burgan, the father of Lance Sergeant Burgan has made the following, statement:

"Mark was our beloved son. One in a million, proud isn't a good enough word to show how we feel about him.

"You were loving, considerate, protective and thoughtful towards everyone' Sometimes a wind-up merchant and a pain in the backside. During your childhood you were my little soldier; as your sisters came along, that's when your protective side started; giving your orders out to them and having play fights and giving them a slight dig.

"We all loved our family DVD viewing and one of those teas (red plate) ha ha! As it says in your favourite film, The Lion King, 'hakuna matata' - no worries. So don't worry about your beautiful wife, Leanne, she'll be safe with us and you'll be safe with your darling Archie.

"Keep on partying our sunbeam. All our love to you eternally from your loving Mum, Dad, Nora-Lugs, Kate-Jesus and Jayne - the favourite Bab."

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, said:

"The loss of Major Matt Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan yesterday has been a devastating blow to the Irish Guards. Two more committed and professional soldiers it would be hard to meet; they epitomised what it meant to be a member of this family regiment.

"Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan joined the Battalion in 1999 and went first to Germany, where the Battalion were based. He quickly found his feet, and became known for the traits that marked out the rest of his service: reliability, hard work and a performance as a proficient and skilled soldier. But with all of these came a sense of humour and style that set him apart.

"Like so many of his age in the military, he served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan with the Battalion. But his contribution was more marked than the roll call of places suggests.

"For in every place he visited and with each group that he worked, he brought something extra. His professional knowledge and dedication were his hallmarks. The notes given to me by his Company Commander, alongside whom he died, say it all: 'Knows what has to be done, does it brilliantly and has the next thing ready before you ask'.

"He liked to be at the centre of the small group dynamic that makes infantry battalions work, and he found this in the Signals Platoon. Likeable, welcoming and with a smile on his face, he was always available to help those less gifted than himself as a friend and mentor. This made him a well known and much respected figure in the Battalion. Such was his enthusiasm and dynamism, everyone wanted to have him around.

"He was also a dedicated family man; his family was central to all that he did. Leanne, his parents and sisters all mourn with us the passing of this larger than life character who was a friend to every man in the Battalion.

"It is perhaps a comment on the character of this Regiment that both Lucy Collins and Leanne Burgan are the daughters of distinguished and long serving Irish Guardsmen. The events of last night are a family tragedy in every sense."

Captain Ben Irwin-Clark, Company Second in Command, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan was recently graded as the best Lance Sergeant in Number 3 Company, and for good reason. He was the quintessential Irish Guards Non-Commissioned Officer - totally professional and excellent at his job, smart and with extremely high personal standards, with a ready smile and a bright and engaging character. Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan was a hugely capable soldier, driver, Signals Detachment Commander and junior commander.

"Those he led respected his professionalism and aspired to emulate him, while those above him were enriched by his initiative and willing attitude. He was passionately loyal to his friends and family, a big-hearted and tactile man who could talk to anyone with great empathy and kindness.

"Many times during this operational tour he showed himself to be cool under fire, capable of clear and well executed command, and dependable in all circumstances. His passing has left an enormous hole in his Company, and his warmth and character will be sorely missed with every passing day."

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) Stephen McMichael, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Lance Sergeant Burgan was one of the Irish Guards best exports. Loyal, committed, passionate and the ultimate professional, he had a wicked sense of humour and always lit up a room whenever he walked in.

"Lance Sergeant Burgan was the epitome of a Guardsman - smart, fit and an exceptional field soldier. He was a great commander, and he showed great empathy to his subordinates. The Sergeants Mess of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards has lost a great friend and a great Mick. He was a rising star for the future and at this sad moment, our thoughts and prayer are with his wife Leanne and his family. Quis Separabit."

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major), Richie Sixsmith, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan, or Burgo, has been an integral part of the Advisor 30 team since its inception. He was chosen because of his specialist skills with the Bowman system, and because he was the best Signals Detachment Commander within the Signals Platoon. We were lucky as Number 3 Company has the Signals Platoon as one of its elements; therefore we had the pick of the bunch.

"I know Major Collins held Lance Sergeant Burgan in very high regard, as he had recently placed him as number one in all the Lance Sergeants in Number 3 Company. This was echoed by the Battalion; as he was due to take over a Rifle Platoon in Number Two Company on our return from Op HERRICK 13.

"I personally knew Mark a little before he moved to Advisor 30, but over the last 12 to 18 months I got to know him very well. He was a very diligent Non-Commissioned Officer and he impressed with everything he did. He was incredibly fit and loved to run, I soon taught him that a good Platoon Sergeant needs a little more weight, so he'd been hitting the gym with me.

"He was a very devoted husband to his wife Leanne, I know this as he must have spent his entire operational bonus on welfare phone cards, and the amount of letters he received made the Amazon quiver. He was a massive Liverpool FC fan, and would stop at nothing to see 'the match'. I had recently converted him to rugby, and he would stay up many a night to watch the 'egg-chasers', but I was never going to fully convert him.

"I know Mark would have wanted me to say this for him and his family: 'You'll never walk alone'. You are in my heart and my prayers. God speed, Richie. QS III."

Corporal Andy Cairns, Royal Army Medical Corps, Advisor 30 Medic, said:

"Dear Terry and Rita Burgan, I am fully aware that these words will not be able to fill the vacuum created by Mark's death, nor are they supposed to. I hope that they are able to console you, even if it is just for a moment.

"I was lucky enough to have met Mark, worked with him, and soldiered beside him throughout this tour. I came to know him well, he would never pass without mocking me, or having a dig, and I would attempt a witty response in equally bad taste - such was the way of our friendship. He was a consummate professional, in both the calm and in the storm we faced in our time together out here.

"He led tirelessly by example, constantly working with the blokes, for the blokes. The devastating loss of Mark will be felt far and wide by all those who know and loved him. My thoughts are with you at this moment; they were on that day and will be forever. In deepest sympathy, Andy."

Corporal Andrew Hardy, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Advisor, said:

"I've only known Burgo a short while but long enough to admire his spirit. He would always put a happy spin on mundane tasks. There were countless times of friendly banter between us.

"As a vehicle mechanic, I have become used to short acquaintances - this is one I shall not forget. He was truly an inspiration to the whole callsign, and a man I looked up to. My heart goes out to his family and all who loved him through this difficult time. I will remember him."

Lance Corporal Paul Carson, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Burgo was an awesome guy and an even better soldier. He would always give you a hand if you asked for it, and always made you laugh. Although I didn't know him before the tour, I soon realised that he was a mate, and I will often think about him and his family."

Lance Corporal Chris Duddy, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"Burgo was an outstanding soldier, and it was an honour to serve with him. He was very professional at his job, and a role model to look up to. Every day we had laughs with him. Mark will be missed and always remembered as a person to look up to. My thoughts go to Mark's family and his wife Leanne."

Guardsman Ray Thompson, Advisor 30, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"It was an honour and a privilege to have spent my tour of Afghan with Mark. He was always there if we needed problems solved, with his banter and barrels of laughs. It was an honour to serve alongside Mark, who I aspire to be like: loyal, brave, and always willing to help. Not only have I lost a colleague, I have also lost a friend. My thoughts go out to his parents and his wife Leanne."

Guardsman Jack Griffiths, Number 3 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said:

"He was genuinely a good bloke, and was liked by all. He constantly cracked the jokes, and always made sure that the lads were squared away. It was real pleasure to have known him and to have worked so closely with him. A really good guy, who didn't deserve to leave us, he will be sorely missed by all."

Craftsman Shane Milne, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Advisor, said:

"I was attached to Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan's callsign of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards two weeks ago. In the short time that I knew him, I could see that he was a very friendly and dedicated soldier. Burgo was very approachable, extremely friendly and always had a smile on his face.

"There was always a lot of banter between him and the lads, a lot of laughing and giggling. I admired him as a person and a friend and will miss him. He will be missed by many and by his colleagues in the Battalion. My deepest sympathies go out to Burgo's wife, Leanne, his parents and his family."

Craftsman Scott Fitzpatrick, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Advisor, said:

"I am honoured to have met and lived alongside Mark over the past 6 months. I first met Mark while working back in Windsor, and my first impressions of him were what a kind and helpful guy, who went out of his way to help me out, which is sometimes rare to see in my line of work. Upon moving to Camp Gereshk, I found myself working in a camp where I didn't know anyone, until I saw a friendly face, which was Mark's.

"Whenever I needed a hand, or had any questions that needed answering, Mark was always there and happy to help. He was brilliant at his job and loved by everyone.

"What I remember most was he and I staying up until the early hours of the morning so that we could watch the football live as it's not the same watching a repeat. We could talk about football for hours - pretty soon we had a good bond between us. I have too many memories of Mark to mention, none of which I will ever forget. He will be missed by many and never forgotten."

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of Major Collins and Lance Sergeant Burgan, both men of great experience and exemplary commitment to the Irish Guards. They have laid down their lives protecting our national security, a loss made all the more poignant as they were so close to finishing their tour of duty and returning home.

"I extent my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of both men, and to all those who had served with them."

( (c) MoD )

My heart goes out to all who mourn the loss of these exceptional men. We are all the poorer for their passing.

Rest in Peace, Heroes.

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