THE widow of a soldier who died whilst on a training exercise in Wales has been offered care by London Legacy. Corporal James Dunsby, 31, a reservist with the Royal Yeomanry, was taking part in a demanding exercise in the rugged Brecon Beacons in south Wales on a day of extreme heat. James worked as an analyst for the Ministry of Defence. He had served as a reservist for eight years, and had completed a tour of Afghanistan.
Although James Dunsby was British, he and his family held strong connections with Australia. James was educated in Tasmania, where he became head prefect at St Virgil’s College in Hobart and studied at the University of Tasmania. He later served as a non-commissioned officer in the Australian Army. James has extended family living in Tasmania, and despite returning to Britain in recent years had always maintained a strong affinity and close links to the state where he grew up.
The Brecon Beacons are a regular training destination for British forces. On 13 July 2013, James and five other soldiers suffered heat exhaustion whilst completing a gruelling time trial march for selection in the Special Air Services (SAS). This involved marching against the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint, crossing mountainous terrain carrying a rifle and heavy pack. Special forces insiders said candidates often pushed themselves to breaking point in order to qualify for SAS selection.
During the exercise one soldier died in the field and another in hospital the same day. James remained in hospital in a critical condition for a further three weeks, before finally succumbing to his injuries. Three other soldiers admitted to hospital eventually recovered. About 100 soldiers were taking part in the exercise, all carrying heavy packs and weapons. The Ministry of Defence has announced that an inquest in the deaths of the three soldiers is under way.
James Dunsby was a popular man, highly regarded by all who knew him. A statement from his family described him as “a dearly loved son, brother and husband. He had the most wonderful ability to endear, enchant and captivate all who he met with his naughty sense of humour and highly intelligent wit.”
According to the Daily Mail, James and HRH Prince Harry served in Afghanistan together in 2008. They shared a close and common bond during their three months together in Helmand Province, where they served as part of a three man crew of an armoured vehicle. A Kensington Palace spokesman confirmed that Prince Harry was aware of Corporal Dunsby’s death.
This year Legacy is celebrating its 90th Anniversary. The charity was formed in the years immediately after World War One by returning veterans who took it upon themselves the duty of looking after the widows of their fallen comrades, many of whom had young children to care for.
That sacred trust continued after the Second World War and all subsequent conflicts, and it continues today. Legacy Australia looks after the welfare of 100,000 families in 38 countries around the world. It is a unique charity and has always enjoyed the respect, admiration and support of all Australians.
London Legacy is the 50th club of Legacy Australia and looks after the welfare of families of deceased and incapacitated veterans throughout the UK and Europe. Brigadier Bill Sowry, Australian Head of Defence in the UK and a trustee of London Legacy, has been in touch with James Dunsby’s brother and his wife, Bryher, who is the latest widow to be offered support from London Legacy.
The President of London Legacy, Lindsay Birrell, is in discussions with Bryher Dunsby with a view to dedicating the next annual LEGACY ANZAC BALL to the memory of her husband. The Ball will be held at Australia House on the Strand on Friday, 4 April 2014.
By Simon Kleinig, Deputy President, London Legacy