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A True Officer and Gentleman

When news reports from Afghanistan talk about a “senior soldier” being killed they usually mean a senior officer – perhaps a Lieutenant-Colonel. Walter Barrie was a captain but in truth he would appear to have been one of the most senior soldiers killed in Afghanistan – both in terms of experience and talent. Capt. Barrie was gunned down by a rogue Afghan soldier while playing football earlier this month. His death was greeted with sadness and an outpouring for tributes to his professionalism and humanity from his fellow soldiers. He was what is termed a Late Entry Officer – army code for promoted from the ranks. He was the Regimental Sergeant Major when the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Royal Highland Fusiliers, where in Afghanistan in 2008. After his stint as the most senior non-commissioned officer in the battalion, he followed the usual career pattern of promotion to officer status and appointment as the unit’s welfare officer. I only know about Capt. Barrie from the flood of tributes which followed his murder. But I have known former RSMs whose hearts have been broken by being shunted into the battalion welfare job. They only stuck it for the enhanced pension which retirement at captain’s rank brings. And that’s why I believe Captain Barrie was indeed one of the most senior soldiers to die in Afghanistan. He threw himself into the job, masterminding a highly successful charity drive to support the families of battalion members killed or seriously injured in Afghanistan. And then instead of taking a desk job and waiting for his pension, Capt. Barrie got himself sent back to Afghanistan, this time helping to train the Afghan National Army. Had he lived, he may even have managed to reach the rank of Major. I expect his funeral at Glencorse Barracks on Thursday (Nove.29) will be a major and emotional affair.


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