Bomb disposal expert hailed for his bravery

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The Independent Online

A bomb disposal expert who became the fourth UK serviceman killed in a 24-hour period in Afghanistan was hailed for his bravery today.

Staff Sergeant Brett Linley, 29, from Birmingham, died in an explosion while clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Nahr-e-Saraj on Saturday.

The soldier, of the Royal Logistic Corps, was "one of life's grafters", his comrades said.

Lieutenant Colonel David Southall, of Royal Engineers, said: "Staff Sergeant Brett Linley was a man of courage and composure - his loss has shaken us all."

Comrades described a "true hero" who had saved many lives. On one occasion the Birmingham City fan unearthed three IEDs in the space of an hour, they said.

S Sgt Linley had qualified this year as a high threat IED operator after perfecting his technique during three tours in Northern Ireland.

An MoD spokesman added: "There is no doubt that during his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Linley's actions have saved many lives, both Afghan and British, and his death is a tragic loss to his unit, his family and his friends. Staff Sergeant Linley is survived by his partner and his parents."

Lt Col Southall added: "I will remember his calm, considered manner and, as one of life's grafters, his professionalism was meticulous - 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right' he'd tell his boys, both in training and on task.

"Brett faced the IED threat daily, but despite the risk, his heroism was without fuss or fanfare - such quiet and unassuming modesty endeared him to all.

"Brett leaves behind his partner and parents, whose grief we share. In this confused and turbulent world, I will miss his measured voice of reason and clarity of thought; it leaves a void we struggle to fill."

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland, commanding officer of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles Battlegroup in Nahr-e-Saraj, recalled how he dealt with IEDs "without fanfare".

He said: "The loss of Staff Sergeant Brett Linley has touched us all in this battle group. He had worked with us for most of the last three months through testing times. I have a vivid memory of him which I think captures everything that was good and courageous about him.

"After a soldier had been killed in an IED strike, Staff Sergeant Linley went forward to clear the area so that the soldier's personal effects could be recovered. I sat fifty metres away as the sun dipped in the sky watching his lone figure edging down a wood line, step by painstaking step.

"In the space of an hour, on his own, he found three more IEDs. There was no fanfare, he simply dealt with each device, and then silently moved on to the next. He did much more for us, both before and after this event, but it is a mark of the man that he was ever calm, utterly professional, and never made a fuss.

"He was a true hero who knew the risks of his job, but never hesitated to step forward into danger. I will miss his wise advice greatly. We mourn his loss, and grieve for his family."

Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Bex, commanding officer of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, said: "Staff Sergeant Linley was an exceptional man; modest and unassuming, he took immense pride in his work and was remarkable at what he did. Never one to take life too seriously, he was always the source of a witty comment to break the ice or defuse a tricky situation."

In a reference to fellow bomb disposal hero Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, Staff Sergeant Gareth Wood said: "Rest in Peace mate. Look after him Oz."

He was named after tributes were paid to three other British servicemen killed on a bloody day's fighting.

The families, friends and colleagues of Sergeant David Monkhouse, Marine Jonathan Crookes and Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths testified to their bravery and personal qualities.

Sgt Monkhouse, a 35-year-old member of the Royal Dragoon Guards, was killed in a separate explosion in the Nahr-e-Saraj district on Saturday.

Marine Crookes, 26, a reservist in 40 Commando Royal Marines, was killed in an explosion while on foot patrol in Sangin on Friday.

Senior Aircraftman Griffiths, 20, from the RAF Regiment, died in a vehicle crash near Camp Bastion.

The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 now stands at 322.