It’s been 10 years since Private Kevin Elliott was kil*led in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. He was on foot patrol when he was ki*lled in an explosion caused by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Babaji district, Helmand province. He was 24 when he died on 31 August 2009.
I learned about Pte Elliott’s de*ath when I saw a photograph on internet.
.The image stopped me and my tracks and I found myself staring at it for ages. I clearly remember where I was and what I was doing when I saw it. The incredible photograph by Jeff J Mitchell said so much but left me wanting to know more.
Sobbing in a Scottish cemetery was Barry Delaney, a mate of Pte Elliott. The grief in the photo is palpable and the dress is hard to miss. You see, the year before, the friends had made a pact. One would wear an outlandish dress to the funeral of the other. It was a novel but effective way those two friends approached a really tough subject. They had a conversation about their mortality, they expressed their fears, THEY TALKED ABOUT IT, and they drank vodka. And this really resonated with me (the conversation, not so much the vodka).
Inspired by the strength and friendship between these two mates, I delved deeper into the story and eventually contacted Pte Elliott’s family.
In subsequent correspondence with his grandmother, I learned Pte Elliott had also told his family what he wanted if he was ki*lled on active service. He told them he wanted to be buried wearing the jersey of his favourite football team and white socks. His wishes were followed.
“Kev was like my brother – we would have done anything for each other,” Barry Delaney said:
We said that whoever died first, the other one had to wear a pink dress with green spots to the funeral – and we shook on it. It was mainly his idea and the more I think about it, I’m sure Kevin knew something was going to happen.
Barry couldn’t find a pink dress with green spots so he chose a green one and added pink socks to make the outfit look sillier.
He told the newspaper: “It’s what Kev would have wanted.”
Who was Private Kevin Elliott?
By all accounts, he was full of mischief, a bit of a lad. His commanding officer called him a “lovable rogue”.
He didn’t really want to do that tour of Afghanistan and was due to quit the army. He’d already served in Iraq and Northern Ireland, but he didn’t want to let his mates down so he agreed to do one more tour.
Captain Harry Gladstone said, “I remember talking to him shortly before we left Inverness to deploy to Afghanistan in March. He was dressed in civilian clothes, having been de-kitted, and about to walk out of Fort George back to civilian life when he decided to sign back on. “
“When asked why he signed up again he simply said, ‘I didn’t want to miss the boys’.”
Full of cheek
Private Peter Fenton, Fire Support Group g*unner called him cheeky:
But you couldn’t get annoyed with him. He was always able to get a laugh in any situation. He would bend over backwards to make sure everyone was all right. “He was hilarious, confident, loyal, and above all charming.
Private Kyle Russell, Fire Support Group gu*nner, said:
A story typical of Kev was on having a room inspection in Fort George, the Platoon Sergeant opened the fridge to see it full of beer. He told Kev to get rid of it; Kev proceeded to drink the contents of the fridge in front of him and continued for the rest of the night.
“Kev was kind and generous – he lived for the moment. If you asked for a fag, he threw you a packet of twenty. He was a terrible singer but my fondest memory of him was sitting in the back of a vehicle screaming out the words to ‘I got you babe’ at the top of his voice.”
Lance Corporal Ian Bruce, Fire Support Group g*unner, said that Kev would stir people up:
Kev was a poser – he loved his body – but underneath he cared deeply about the other people in the platoon. He would try and wind people up but you couldn’t get annoyed with him, he was too nice. He wanted to be active the entire time.
He loved being in Afghanistan and had booked a holiday to Australia for our return. He also wanted a pair of white socks to walk down Dundee High Street pulling the birds! We will all miss him badly.
One of many
Private Kevin Elliott wasn’t the only soldier ki*lled in that ambush on 31 August 2009. Fellow Black Watchman Sergeant Stuart Millar also died. Newly married and with a young daughter, he was 40 years old.
As you know, thousands upon thousands of people have been kil*led at war and their families live with their loss every single day.