AN ‘exceptional’ young officer and a devoted father of four will become the latest casualties of war to make their final flight into RAF Brize Norton on Tuesday.
Lieutenant Andrew Chesterman, 26, of the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was shot last Thursday following a gun battle with insurgents in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Father-of-four Lance Corporal Matthew Smith, also 26, was killed just a day later, after the checkpoint he was guarding was ambushed.
The bodies of both men will be flown into Brize Norton at 1.30pm on Tuesday before making their journey through the county to the JR Hospital for post mortem examination.
Lt Chesterman was commanding a vehicle patrol through the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand when the lead vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED).
The patrol was engaged by insurgent small arms fire and Lt Chesterman was shot.
Born in Guildford, the young officer had been in Afghanistan since April 7 and was Platoon Commander in C Company.
He leaves behind his father Paul and sisters Anna and Olivia.
His father said: “We have lost a fine young man. It was readily apparent that Andrew gave himself fully and wholeheartedly to his career in 3 Rifles.
“At a Battalion dinner shortly before Op Herrick 16, I was proud to see his easy, close and well- accepted rapport with his fellow young officers.
“His family are immensely proud of him and will carry him very dearly in their hearts.”
A section second in command, crane operator and driver L Cpl Smith had been heavily involved with the transition to Afghan-led security, and helped construct a new bridge allowing the local population of Nad-e Ali to cross the Nahr-e-Bughra canal.
He leaves behind his father, Kenneth, mother Caroline, fiancée Laura, brother Bradley and four children, Lainie, Ella, Tilli and Jai.
His mother said: “A loving father to four beautiful children, who will be dearly missed by his fiancée Laura, mother, father, family and friends. Our Hero RIP.”
Lieutenant Colonel John Ridge RE, Commanding Officer, 26 Engineer Regiment, added: “I last saw L Cpl Smith a few weeks ago.
“He briefed me on what his team were up to, and on the tasks that they had still to do before the end of the tour.
“He was clearly loving the job and the experience of leading on operations. After four months of hard physical work, I expected to find his soldiers tired and looking forward to getting home. Instead, they were in high spirits and focused on what jobs were coming up next.
“There could be no better proof of his outstanding leadership.”
The soldiers’ cortege will pass by Carterton’s Memorial Garden at around 4pm, before arriving at the JR at 5pm.
Carterton Mayor Cllr Adrian Coomber will host some of the men’s family members at the town’s memorial garden.
He said: “It’s been about four weeks since we had our last repatriation and I for one had started to hope we would never need to use the memorial garden again. But now we have two more young men who have lost their lives and we prepare to honour them.”
He added: “Here in Carterton we host extended family members who come from right across the country to say goodbye to their loved ones and seeing those young wives and children is heart-wrenching.”
Click here for updates for Tuesday’s repatriation