Soldier killed in Afghanistan
Lieutenant Paul Mervis was killed “doing the job he chose and loved”
A Jewish soldier has been killed in Afghanistan trying to protect his
platoon from a roadside bomb.
Lieutenant Paul Mervis of 2nd Battalion The Rifles died in an explosion last Friday during a foot patrol in northern Helmand province.
In Afghanistan, he carried a 1936 issue Soldier’s Siddur which had previously belonged to Sergeant Dave Newman, who fought in the Battle of El Alamein in World War II.
Paying tribute to the 27-year-old, his family, members of Wimbledon Reform Synagogue, said he was “generous and thoughtful, with an infectious sense of fun”.
His father Jonathan spoke of “a wonderful lad. He was killed doing the job he chose and loved and was passionately committed to his men.” His mother Margaret added: “It has been quite difficult for the army to retain officers and morale is often not at its highest. But from the time he took over his platoon not one man chose to leave it. We have had lots of comfort from reading notes from his colleagues.”
Lt Mervis spent part of his gap year in Israel, where he participated in a programme studying Hebrew, training with IDF soldiers and being taught about Israeli military history.
He studied philosophy at University College London and worked as a journalist on The Week and the Spectator.
One of the first officers to join the 2nd Battalion after its formation in 2007, he led his platoon with distinction in practice exercises and was deployed to Kosovo.
Mrs Mervis said her son had left for Afghanistan shortly before Pesach. His sister Hannah and brother Jack sent him a provisions parcel with matzah and dried chicken soup so that he could mark the festival while on duty. “He told me he was going to try and attend a Seder at the US base.
“Paul would always come with us to shul when he was in London. He was very proud of the fact that he was the 35th Jewish serviceman currently in the British Army.”
The Siddur Lt Mervis carried had been passed on by Martin Newman, Sergeant Newman’s son and chairman of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces.
“Paul and I had exchanged emails and calls for some time,” Mr Newman explained. “When he was about to go out to Afghanistan, he sent me a message saying he was becoming more religious and asked if I would keep in touch when he was on operations and send him anything of Jewish interest.”
The family was hoping to hold the funeral at Aldershot Military Cemetery, where other Jewish servicemen have been buried.