London area, England, UK
Army, Major, Intelligence Corps
9/11/2005, Basra, Basra
A message from “Biffa” to all the girls: “Hello treacle!”
He never called his mother treacle and we didn’t know that his nickname was Biffa but then parents don’t know everything.
As a small boy he was never happier than when he was outside digging trenches and making bivouacs on the ‘plots’ next door or in the garden building tree houses of dubious quality or rope constructions of equally dubious quality which acted as an aerial adventure playground. Marching round the garden with a gang of other children was another favourite pastime. He would always be at the front and cries of “I’m the leader nobody overtakes me” could regularly be heard.
It was often a mixed sex little army. The government would be heartened to learn that Matthew (he was Matthew then, he didn’t become Matt until he joined the Army) had grasped the basic rule in regard to sex discrimination. There is no difference between the sexes! Girls were treated in exactly the same way as boys and were expected to join in with the marching and tree climbing and whatever adventure Matthew had thought up. Efforts to interest Matt in more gentle and artistic pursuits failed dismally. Playing the piano for instance was not for him, dancing lessons were definitely out of the question.
And so we knew quite early on that the army was going to be his life and when he was old enough he joined the Army Cadet Force and the rest as they say is history. What we didn’t know was the brilliant soldier he was to become.
We have had an avalanche of letters and cards telling us all about Matt and there has been both tears and laughter in equal measure. I can’t tell you how grateful we are to have received them. But what comes through them all without exception is professionalism, enthusiasm and most of all sheer joie de vivre. He was a soldier’s soldier by all accounts.
In addition to the quotes on the back of the order of service there is another one he was fond of which he found in Colin Powell’s ‘A Soldier’s Way’ – “Don’t be afraid of failure, be more afraid of not trying.” And he tried everything – Sky diving, mountaineering & rock climbing, orienteering, triathlon (that’s the running, swimming, cycling one, not necessarily in that order), scuba diving, skiing and snowboarding, wakeboarding (don’t ask, I don’t quite understand it except that it is on water) and ice hockey. And that is only what we knew about.
I cannot think of a better way to end than by reading out what we said in our original statement:
“Our son was a hero, invincible we thought, having served in conflict zones including Northern Ireland, the Gulf, Former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan as well as enjoying high-risk sports like sky and scuba diving. We have always understood the risks attached to Matthew’s career but never imagined that anything could or would happen to our son. We are immensely proud of Matthew, of the leader he became, the lives of people he touched directly and indirectly and the good work he did throughout his career. Before I finish I want to tell you that Matthew was about to embark on a new and perhaps the most adventurous stage in his life with someone very special. Natasha. Natasha had become the light of his life. So, for Maureen his mother, for Nick his brother, for me his father and for Natasha his soulmate, Matthew will be in our hearts and in our minds of every second of every day.”
God Bless one of Britain’s finest.