Major Paul Harding
4th Battalion The Rifles
19th June 2007

 

Major Paul Harding was killed by enemy action in Iraq on 19th June 2007,

Harding was a “late entry” officer, that is to say he was one who had made his way through the ranks from rifleman to Regimental Sergeant Major before commissioning.

He was killed by a mortar direct hit on the sangar from where, under cover of darkness, he was directing a resupply convoy into the Joint Coordination Centre for Basra province. It was a dangerous task he might have delegated, but he did it himself.

Harding enlisted into the Royal Green Jackets in 1976, one of the generation of British army soldiers who honed their operational skills on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry yet showed sympathy for people unwillingly caught up in the troubles and compassion for those injured or bereaved by mindless and indiscriminate violence.

He was an outstanding sportsman who represented the Army at athletics, soccer, swimming and the triathlon. As Regimental Sergeant Major of 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets in Cyprus he encouraged the sporting aspirations of all ranks to broaden each individual’s horizon and to build team spirit.

Before going to Iraq in May he commanded the Fire Support Company of 4th Battalion The Rifles, as 2nd Battalion the Royal Green Jackets became this year. But the unit’s task in Basra province required his specialist weapon platoons to be dispersed to work with the rifle companies in detached locations or on separate operations.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Sanders, wished – in his own words – “to have Paul Harding at my side in the headquarters to draw on his experience and ability, but I realised his skills would be better used with the Province Joint Coordination Centre, a small and isolated outpost co-located with the Iraqi Security Force headquarters in the centre of Basra”.

Harding was appointed chief of staff of the PJCC with responsibility for security of the base, liaison with the Iraqi element, the daily running of the centre and ordering ammunition, supplies and rations in a nonroutine manner to reduce the risks to those bringing them in.

On one of the first days of this assignment, the outpost was attacked by a force of 200 armed militia intent on taking the building and killing the occupants. Under his calm and inspiring leadership, the composite defence force from 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, a detachment from the 4th Rifles and from other brigade units held off the attackers for four hours.

The experience Harding gained over 30 years of service meant that he had undertaken virtually every task he would require any of his subordinates to take. He knew every trick and wrinkle, including the mischievous ones, and consequently how to get the best out of his men. Their respect for him was demonstrated by the deluge of handwritten notes arriving on Colonel Sanders’s desk.

After Harding’s death, he said, “He knew and understood the riflemen and he loved them. Not blindly, for he knew better than anyone their individual frailties, strengths and weaknesses, he loved them as a father and they loved him back with fierce loyalty and devotion.”

Paul Henry George Harding was commissioned in April 1997 after 20 years as a rifleman, NCO and warrant officer.

He is survived by his wife, Paula, who lives in the regimental home town of Winchester with their two sons.

Major Paul Harding, rifleman, was born on August 17, 1958. He was killed in action on June 19, 2007, aged 48

To read comments from those who knew him click here.