Royal Marine who died on Christmas Eve
Lance Corporal Benjamin Whatley, from Lima Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines Photo: MOD
The soldier was named as L/Cpl Benjamin Whatley, 20, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk who was serving with Lima Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines.
He was killed in the Nad-e-Ali District of central Helmand while Lima Company was conducting an operation to clear enemy forces from the north of the district.
“Leading his men from the front, Lance Corporal Whatley was killed by enemy fire during a prolonged and fierce battle with insurgents,” the Ministry of Defence said.
His family said in a statement: “Ben was a vibrant, happy person who had an unbridled enthusiasm for life. He was so proud to be a Royal Marine; his death creates an irreplaceable loss for all his family and friends.”
Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton said: “L/Cpl Ben Whatley has been described by his friends and colleagues as a superb Marine and an example to others. He died leading his men into battle.
“His friends and colleagues will feel his loss enormously and my thoughts and prayers are with his family above all at this very difficult time.”
L/Cpl Whatley was on his second tour of Afghanistan and spent the time in between training in the Himalayas.
Lt Col Charlie Stickland, commanding officer of 42 Commando, said that “combat hardened” Lima company had been particularly hard hit by the death and added: “Lance Corporal Ben Whatley sat at the heart of a group of comrades bound together through rugged shared experiences, with strength of friendship that many cannot understand.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and other loved ones at this tragic, tragic time.”
Major Rich Cantrill, the officer commanding Lima Company, said: “Lance Corporal Ben Whatley was a tough, uncompromising commando. Tall with a booming baritone voice, Ben Whatley had in abundance that magic ingredient of 'presence’.”
Major Cantrill said he saw the Afghan “veteran” during a battle at Zarghun Kalay, winning the fire fight against tough opposition and added: “This is what Ben was doing when he was killed, fighting from the front for his friends, for his team, for his company. I will remember him as an ever-young commando, a fighter, a man’s man, a Royal Marine to the core.”
Cpl Luke Colman, section commander of 9 Troop, Lima Company, said he could not have wanted a better second-in-command and said he would be seen “going up and down the line encouraging the other lads when things were getting hard”.
Cpl Colman added: “More than all this, he was a great friend to all the lads in the section, me included. Words cannot express what a great loss this has been to all of us.”
His friend, Marine Nick Knapman of 9 Troop, said: “Ben knew what was important to him and that was his family and friends. Always trying to stitch someone up with a prank, he was without a doubt the craftiest 20 year-old I have ever met. Always the first one to want to go out for a drink, he was always the last one ready.
“See you soon Ben, but hopefully not too soon. You’re going to be missed by all, especially those closest to you and I’ll never forget you.”