Father’s pride at son who followed in his footsteps by serving in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment

Tom Wroe with his dad Mick
Tom Wroe with his dad Mick

There was never really any doubt that Tom Wroe would follow in his father’s footsteps.

Mick Wroe had served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment between 1984 and 2006, rising to Sergeant, following his two older brothers and his father into a military career.

Tom Wroe

Tom Wroe

“It’s what I always wanted to do,” says Mick, who trained at Strensall Barracks in North Yorkshire, and served in Gibraltar, the UK, Belize, Northern Ireland, Norway, Canada, Sinai, Kosovo, Germany and Iraq.

“You mainly stayed in one camp for a couple of years and moved on in those days.

“They were really good times.

“It’s a family regiment, and they do look after you.”

Gareth Thursby and Tom Wroe

Gareth Thursby and Tom Wroe

And from an early age, his son Tom was destined to follow suit.

“He was gutted that he wasn’t going to be a Duke. By the time he joined, it had changed into the Yorkshire Regiment.

“He’d grown up with the Army. Tom joined the Cadets, and wanted to be in the Army from an early age.

“He got the rank of Corporal in the Cadets, then he went to the Army Foundation College straight from school.

“He was a good little soldier. He rose to Junior Sergeant at the college, and then went into the Yorkshire Regiment, but he was too young to deploy to Afghanistan, so he stayed back doing his training until he was 18, when he volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

“Tom was very proud to be in the British Army and he fitted in really well with his platoon. But a couple of months later, that was him....”

Tom, whose nickname in the Platoon was Baby General, was just 18 when he died alongside 29-year-old Platoon Sergeant Gareth Thursby when a man in an Afghan police uniform feigned injury and turned his gun on them when they went to his aid at a security checkpoint in Helmand province.

“It’s six years since it happened,” says Mike. “You don’t think it’ll happen to your kid.

“We got told on a Saturday. It was just a normal evening, half-past-six, making tea, and there was a knock on the door.

“Two blokes were there, they showed their ID card and I let them in.

“You know something’s wrong but you don’t know how serious it is until they tell you.

“They tell you to sit down, they tell you, and it totally changes your life.

“The first 12 months after it happened was just a whirlwind.

“You get told, then you have to do the press and everything. But you do get looked after.

“You get a visiting officer who looks after you from day one, and ours was Colour Sergeant Maurice Crossley, who I knew from my time in the Army, and that helped.

“Then you’re just waiting for the repatriation, and then the funeral, and all the organised functions and fundraisers after that. Our feet didn’t touch the ground.

“But nothing is the same.

“Before they go to war, they write ‘last letters’, and Tom phoned me at the time, crying his eyes out writing these last letters.

“After everything, you’re waiting for these letters, to read what his last words were.

“That was awful, upsetting, tearful.”

The passage of time hasn’t dulled the pain. The memories are still clear, the emotions are still raw.

“We go and see him regularly, have a chat with him, look after his grave, cut his grass.

“But your whole life changes after that. Four is down to three. Things like setting the table, you’re setting it for three, not four.

“It’ll never go away, but you’ve just got to live with it.

“You do wonder what rank he’d be.

“I think he’d be well up the ranks, definitely a Corporal by now.

“He was a popular character, a real laugh.

“He had a really promising career. He would have done well.

“To achieve what he achieved, and earn the respect he did from his platoon in the little time he did, We are so proud of our Tom.

“Tom will never be forgotten alongside Gareth and all the fallen. Remembrance is every day. V.F.C.”

Mick says the regimental memorial, set to be unveiled in Halifax in May, will be a fitting tribute to those who have served in the Dukes.

The statue will be placed at Woolshops in Halifax town centre, and Mick will be there, along with his wife Claire and scores of former Dukes, to see it for the first time.

“It’s for everyone, the fallen and the living,” he said. “It’s a good thing.

“It’s there forever isn’t it. For people to look, reminisce.

“I think it’s important people know about their own Yorkshire Regiment, what they’ve done, where they’re going. It’s everyday history.

“They’re the people that give us our freedom.

“It’ll be nice to let people know the Regiment still exists in some form and the name lives on.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it and having a chat with people, meeting up with them.”

Mick was deeply touched by the regiment’s presence at his son Tom’s funeral six years ago, which he says exemplifies the bonds created in the Dukes.

He added: “There were so many Dukes at the funeral, with their red ties on.

“They’re always there for you. You don’t have to see anyone for years, but if you see them in the street, you pick up where you left off years before.

“There’s real comradeship.

“They have two reunions a year in Halifax and they take over the venue. They’re always good meet-ups.

“Once you’re a Duke, you’re always a Duke.”

For more information on the memorial appeal, call 01980 611211, email carolinecary@gmail.com or visit www.memorial.dwr.org.uk.

To donate, visit www.justgiving,com/dukeofwellingtonsregiment.