British soldier who died in Ukraine saved others in his unit, inquest told

A former British soldier saved members of his foreign regiment in Ukraine by teaching them how to use an anti-tank weapon they deployed moments after he was fatally shot, a court has heard.

Jordan Gatley, 24, was shot in the head by a Russian sniper on a tank on June 10 in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine.

The volunteers he had been fighting alongside were fought the attackers thanks to his guidance.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard his inquest on Tuesday, along with that of another Briton who died while volunteering in Ukraine, father-of-three Scott Sibley.

Mr Sibley, 36, from Immingham in Lincolnshire, died in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on April 22 after a drone dropped mortars on his regiment.

Both men were experienced former British Army soldiers. Mr Gatley, from Sandbach in Cheshire, served in the Edinburgh-based Third Battalion of The Rifles for six years, while Mr Sibley had been in the Royal Logistic Corps.

They had wanted to use their skills to help people in Ukraine, and separately joined war efforts in the country in mid-March.

Senior coroner Darren Salter formally ruled on Tuesday that they were “killed while on active service for the Ukrainian foreign legion”.

Mr Gatley’s parents, Dean and Sally, watched his hearing by videolink.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Gatley described her son’s passion for the Army and the events that led to his death.

She said: “Jordan always wanted to be a soldier from a young age and never deterred from this when he grew up.

“He told us he was going to Ukraine to do whatever he could to help the people of Ukraine.”

Mrs Gatley said a member of her son’s regiment told her what happened on the day he died.

“He said Jordan and his unit were clearing bombed buildings to check for any casualties and make sure they were clear before the Ukrainian army advanced,” she said.

“They would start at the top of buildings. Jordan was coming down the stairwell of one building, he was ahead of his crew when he was shot.

“The crew then deployed an anti-tank weapon, which they had been taught by Jordan to use the week before. They felt he had saved their lives.”

Paying tribute to her son, Mrs Gatley said: “We are very proud of him for everything he had achieved, and devastated that his life has been cut short.

“We would not wish this on anyone and we miss him dearly.”

During Mr Sibley’s inquest, a statement from a consular official was read aloud by the coroner, outlining his final moments.

Mr Salter said: “A drone was seen overhead.

“Moments later, one mortar landed on the side of the foxhole where Scott was, compromising the foxhole.

“He ran to another foxhole, and while he was running, another mortar hit him, killing him instantly.”

He said Mr Sibley “sustained fatal injuries to his chest and abdomen”, including damage to his left lung and a ruptured kidney.

An American captain from Mr Sibley’s unit broke the news of his death to his parents.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Sibley described him as “a mischievous, blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy” who grew up surrounded by female relatives and took on the role of “protector”.

On his decision to fight in Ukraine, Mrs Sibley said: “He had heard news about women and children being abused. He wanted to help.

“Scott would do anything to help anyone. He had a good heart, and was a good person.”

Both soldiers were identified through dental records and by their tattoos, and it was concluded that in both cases their injuries caused instant death.

A small number of serving and former British personnel are believed to have joined the resistance against the Russian invasion, as well as Britons without combat experience.

There was initially confusion on the Government’s position after then-foreign secretary Liz Truss, in comments during an interview to the BBC on February 26, said she would “absolutely” support UK nationals who chose to fight for Ukraine.

She later rowed back on the comments, insisting she had been “expressing support for the Ukrainian cause”, and that there were “better ways” to contribute to the country’s defence.