Tributes paid to ‘exceptional’ soldier

TRIBUTES have been paid to an ‘exceptional’ soldier from Backwell whose body will be flown back to England this week.

Major Matthew Collins was killed alongside his colleague, Lance Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan, by an improvised explosive device while returning to base from an operation with an Afghan National Army company on March 23. Both were members of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, widely known as ‘The Micks’.

The men were due to arrive at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire this week for private ceremonies with their families before a cortege through Wootton Bassett.

Major Collins, aged 38, lived with his wife Lucy, their daughter Freya and son Charlie. He also leaves behind his father Derek, mother Tricia and brothers, Mark, Nick and Chris.

A statement from his family said: “Not only a soldier but a caring husband, devoted father to Freya and Charlie, caring son, wonderful brother and friend to many. We will all miss him and remember him always.”

Numerous tributes have been paid to Major Collins by his fellow officers and company members, many of whom called him ‘Boss’.

Major Fabian Roberts said: “I am immensely proud to have known Major Matt Collins for 15 years. He was one whose combination of unquenchable enthusiasm, fundamental kindness and selfless determination marked him as every inch what a Mick Officer should be.

Most Read

“Matt was a true friend and a true Mick, and clearly - and above all - absolutely devoted to Lucy, Freya and Charlie.”

Major Mickey Stewart said: “My friend of sixteen years, Matt Collins was an extraordinary man with a passion for life, his Regiment and his family that few could surpass.

“He was an exceptional soldier.

“Only the love for his family beat the dedication for his job and I know this because he told me often enough.”

Major Collins was commissioned into the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in August 1996 and served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the time of his death, he was the Company Commander of Number 3 Company and had been deployed as commander of an advisory team helping to improve the operational capability of Afghan soldiers in Helmand.

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Irish Guards, said: “This tour of Afghanistan gave Matt Collins the chance he wanted to shine as a field commander.

“Central to every one of the operations we have undertaken over the tour, he led from the front both physically and in how he conducted himself.”

* Anyone wanting to leave a tribute to Major Collins can do so by commenting below.