Just over a month ago, Cpl Gordon Pritchard was pictured posing proudly alongside Tony Blair in Iraq. He was one of several servicemen and women captured by the media as they chatted to Mr Blair days before Christmas at Shaibahbase near Basra. Yesterday the 31-year-old married father of three was back on the front pages - this time as the 100th British soldier to die in the war.
Born into a military family, he had gone to Iraq to serve his country as a professional soldier - fully aware of the dangers that entailed. "One of the last things Gordon said before he left for Iraq was, 'Dad I'm going to get you a medal'. He was determined to prove himself," said his father, Billy, yesterday.
Cpl Pritchard died when insurgents targeted three 7th Armoured Brigade vehicles collecting water and supplies in the port of Umm Qasr, south of Basra.
He was commanding the lightly armoured lead Land Rover and was "top cover", with his head and shoulders exposed to the blast when a roadside bomb went off. Three years ago, Gordon's brother Peter was among the first British troops to cross the border into Umm Qasr at the start of the invasion of Iraq and helped to liberate the town.
Mr Pritchard, a former member of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, said the family had been aware of the risks."Other families don't talk about it but we did and we knew exactly what to expect and discussed it all - even down to the funeral arrangements."
Born while his father was stationed in Germany, Gordon Pritchard always wanted to be a soldier. He was a junior leader, went to the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane - a boarding school for children of servicemen - and joined the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on leaving.
"Scotland's cavalry," as his father proudly proclaims, was formed by the union of the 3rd Carabiniers and The Royal Scots Greys, whose origins date back to 1678.
Traditionally an Edinburgh-based regiment, it has not been stationed in the city for more than 30 years yet the regimental museum at Edinburgh Castle still displays the Eagle Standard, captured from the French 45th Regiment at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
For more than 40 years there has been a Pritchard serving in the regiment. "I joined up in the 1960s, Gordon's older brother was in the regiment and Gordon was proud to be too. That's 40 years of family tradition which has abruptly come to an end," said Mr Pritchard yesterday at his home close to the centre of Edinburgh. He was wearing the regimental badge on the lapel of his jacket.
He added: "Gordon served in Kosovo and Bosnia but this was his first time in Iraq. He wanted to go. He had done all the training and was happy to go." Cpl Pritchard went out to Iraq in October and had been due to return to the regiment's base in Germany next May. Yesterday his commanding officer, Lt-Col Ben Edwards, described him as one of the regiment's finest junior non-commissioned officers. "He was a soldier with very great potential and had been identified in the past year as one for whom the regiment had high hopes," he said. "Cpl Pritchard demonstrated leadership qualities above and beyond those expected of a junior non-commissioned officer.
"He was highly proficient at all aspects of his job, remaining calm under pressure and adapting well to the intricacies of an operational environment. Always quick with a smile, with an especially dry sense of humour, he led his men by example."
Cpl Pritchard's wife, Julie-Anne, was staying at her parents' home in Radstock, Somerset, with their three children yesterday.Reuse content