Schoolmaster's walk in memory of former pupil killed in Afghanistan
An officer with the Gurkhas who was killed in a 'green on blue' attack while on duty in Afghanistan last year is to be honoured by his former house master at Eton in a 200-mile memorial walk.
Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter was gunned down alongside his Gurkha comrade Lance Corporal Siddhanta Kunwar, 28, by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform in Nahr-e-Saraj, Helmand province, on October 30, 2012.
James Cook, 70, a retired housemaster and Vice-Provost of Eton College, the public school near Windsor, was so touched by the tragic loss of his former pupil and so inspired by his "noble achievement" in life that he has taken on the challenge in his memory while raising money for the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) – the Soldiers' Charity – and three other charities, even though he has Parkinson's Disease.
More than £11,000 has been already been pledged in support of the challenge.
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Lt Drummond-Baxter was commissioned into the 1st Battalion, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, shortly after leaving Mr Cook's house during the final year of the teacher's tenure as housemaster.
Mr Cook, who taught at Eton for 39 years, will have rhyme in his rhythm while he walks – as he is walking from Chittlehampton to Littlehampton.
He will leave his home in the North Devon village of Chittlehampton, where he lives with his wife Marcia, on Monday and set out on a journey expected to take three weeks to Littlehampton on the West Sussex coast.
Mr Cook said: "The challenge that I have set myself is very modest in comparison with what so many badly wounded soldiers achieve.
"Their achievements are not confined to the very public arena of adventurous or physical challenges that they set themselves, but are found even more impressively in their quiet and more private daily determination to get on with life.
"Their example is inspirational, as has been the life of Ed Drummond-Baxter, so tragically cut short but of such noble achievement. I am supporting the Soldiers' Charity because of all these brave men and women."
Retired Colonel Robert Jordan, regional director of ABF The Soldiers' Charity for the South-West, said: "The challenge that James has set himself is no mean feat given the circumstances surrounding his health, and we are extraordinarily grateful to James for supporting us, and remain conscious of his very personal reason for doing so.
"It is heartening when supporters take the initiative and get on with planning events in support of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, and James' challenge is an inspiration. We will always be there for all the nation's veterans, currently serving soldiers and their families, young and old."
Lt Drummond-Baxter, who was born in Peterborough, and grew up in Consett, County Durham, was on his first operational tour of Afghanistan, attached to the Westcountry-based 40 Commando Royal Marines, when he was killed at a checkpoint.
Speaking shortly after Edward's death, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel David Robinson of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, said: "Our battalion has lost a character, a gentleman and an inspirational leader in Lieutenant Edward Drummond-Baxter. The tragedy of his loss is beyond words."
Lt Drummond-Baxter's death was a shock to allied forces in Afghanistan at the time due to its nature as a 'green on blue'.
This refers to numerous incidents in which Afghanistan soldiers and police officers kill their British or American trainers and advisors – raising questions over policy in the country. Money raised will be split between the ABF, Parkinsons UK, Calvert Trust Exmoor and Friends of St Hieritha's Church Chittlehampton.
To donate, visit Mr Cook's Virgin Giving page: http://bit.ly/13oU0TI.