Rifleman remembers his Rifleman Dad

Ethan Cornish was just three when his Dad, Corporal Matthew Cornish, was taken from him and his family in 2006. The 29-year-old was killed in Basra, Iraq, after being wounded in an attack on his unit’s base. From that day onwards young Ethan had just one dream and that was to emulate his father and join the British Army.

Ethan is now 19 and has fulfilled that ambition, not only following his father into the Army but also joining the same unit as the man he adored so much. Ethan is now Rifleman Cornish and is proud to be a member of B’ Company, 5th Battalion, The Rifles based in Bulford, Wiltshire.

“I like to think that he’s proud of me and what I have done and achieved and that he is watching me do the things he used to do” Rifleman Ethan Cornish, 5th Battalion the Rifles

He explains what it means to be serving in his Dad’s former unit:

“Since I was young, I had always wanted to join up, it means the world to me. It is a really good feeling that I am here and more so that I am following in my Dad’s footsteps.”

The Rifles are the British Army’s largest infantry regiment and has Riflemen consistently deployed on operations and training worldwide. The Regiment was formed in 2007 when four of the most famous regiments in the British Army amalgamated into a modern large regiment: The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, The Light Infantry, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry and The Royal Green Jackets.

Ethan’s thoughts turn once more to his Rifleman father, Matthew, who was on his third tour of Iraq in April 2006 when he was struck by shrapnel from an enemy mortar. A tiny piece of metal caused a fatal wound behind his ear:

“At the end of the day he signed up knowing what could happen and he died doing what he loved”

After applying, Ethan passed the initial assessment process and was offered a place at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Following his pass out parade, it was a ‘no-brainer’; he had his heart set on joining not only the same regiment but the same modern-day battalion that his father had served in.  

Ethan from Folkestone, Kent recalls what his mum thought when he decided to take the same career path as his Father:

“It was a struggle at first, knowing what had happened to dad but she is so proud of me and always has been. She’s never tried to stop me, she’s only ever supported me.”

With two years’ service as a Rifleman now firmly under his belt Ethan reflects on his life today as a Rifleman in the British Army:

“I am loving it. I love battalion life and I really enjoy the training as it’s hands-on. It’s what I was expecting and much more besides.”

Rifleman Cornish often ponders as to what his dad would be thinking now as his son’s military career goes from strength to strength:

“I like to think that he’s proud of me and what I have done and achieved and that he is watching me do the things he used to do”

Turning to Remembrance, Ethan’s thoughts will once again be firmly focused on the love and respect for his ‘superhero’ dad:

“It’s a sad time for so many people, myself included. During Remembrance, not everyone shares the same thought process but they still have that respect for those people who have lost their lives. I’m lucky, I have great support around me. Everyone looks after one another here in the regiment so I’ll be alright and I know Dad will be up there watching over me.”