A military ceremony has been held in Syria for two Britons killed with the Kurdish-led armed group the YPG.Jac Holmes, from Bournemouth, Dorset, and Oliver Hall, of Gosport, Hampshire, both 24, were among a cohort of international volunteers who have been fighting the so-called Islamic State.The men were killed by explosive devices in separate incidents while clearing mines in Raqqa. Their coffins were taken to Iraq and will be repatriated to the UK.
British YPG fighter Kimmie Taylor, who helped carry Mr Holmes’s coffin, told the BBC the ceremony was “very emotional”.”Jac was everyone’s best friend,” she said. “His determination to see the freedom of the Kurdish people and to see the fall of Daesh (IS) showed his strength.”I hope his family can understand the impact he had.”Mr Holmes, an IT worker, had fought in Syria three times since 2015, spending longer than almost any other international YPG volunteer in the conflict. His death was announced in October.
His father, Peter Holmes, told the BBC he had tried to dissuade his son from returning to Syria, but Jac had explained “his heart and mind were in Rojava”, the mainly Kurdish region of northern Syria.”‘Unfinished business, Dad,’ he said. He knew IS were not yet defeated, and that Kurds younger than him were dying everyday.”
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Authorities have repeatedly tried to prevent people from going to Syria to fight against IS, warning they risk breaking UK terrorism laws.Despite this, dozens of British citizens have chosen to go.
Peter Holmes told the BBC he wanted to express his gratitude to the Kurdish community for their support.”It is very humbling, and illustrates to me why Jack had chosen to dedicate his life to enabling all the people of Rojava to live freely,” he said.Oliver Hall, a former engineering student, arrived in Syria in August while the battle for Raqqa was reaching its final stages. He was killed on 25 November.
Neither of the men had military experience before travelling to the conflict.Mr Hall’s mother, stepfather and brother told the BBC: “We are proud of Ollie, and proud to see how much he was loved.”The coffins of the men were given a guard of honour as they were taken across the Semelka border crossing into Iraq where they will be repatriated to the UK.
International fighters in Syria have raised the profile of the wider political situation for the Kurdish people, who have suffered decades of persecution.For this reason – as much as for their efforts on the battlefield – thousands of Kurds in the UK have paid tribute to British citizens who have joined the YPG ranks.Seven British citizens have now died with the YPG.The UK Foreign Office continues to warn against all travel to Syria.
Other Britons killed in SyriaMehmet Aksoy: The 32-year-old British film-maker from London was killed in September 2017, after travelling to Syria in June.Luke Rutter: The 22-year-old from Birkenhead, in Merseyside, was killed in June 2017 after his regiment were ambushed by IS forces in Raqqa.Ryan Lock: A 20-year-old former chef from Chichester, Mr Lock died in December 2016 after turning his gun on himself to avoid capture.Dean Carl Evans: The 22-year-old from Reading died in July 2016, while fighting in the city of Manjib.Konstandinos Erik Scurfield: The 25-year-old ex-Royal Marine, from South Yorkshire, died in 2015 to become the first Briton killed while fighting against IS in Syria.
Source: BBC Dorset