Shock after missing soldier Daniel Allen found dead at Birling Gap

A family have expressed their shock after a soldier who was “so loved” was found dead at Birling Gap.

Daniel Allen took his own life at the age of just 21, an inquest heard on Thursday (March 21).

The inquest was held at Eastbourne Town Hall

The inquest was held at Eastbourne Town Hall

In a statement his family said his actions came as a “shock” to themselves and the army, where he was training to be a helicopter engineer.

While a peer to peer charity for servicemen and women said his death was “gut-wrenching” and the outpouring of grief from the community afterwards a testament to “just how difficult it is to keep hearing of young servicemen and women who feel they have nowhere to turn for help in dark times”.

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall heard Daniel joined the armed forces aged 17.

A letter from his family read at the inquest said, “He appeared to excel and really enjoyed being in the army. Even though the training was tough going he persevered and raised morale of the group with his quick wit.

“He was a very quiet boy, shy until he gained confidence. He had a great sense of humour. He made quite a few mates in the army. The army was as shocked as we were with his actions.”

Daniel was serving at MoD Lyneham in Wiltshire, and would return to see his family in Southampton most weekends, where he would visit friends and “tinker with his car”, a Subaru. He would also visit his girlfriend in Plymouth, the inquest heard.

The last time his family saw him had been celebrating his birthday with a trip to Abingdon race track.

“We had a lovely normal family day,” the letter said, “We didn’t see any sense of unusual mood, however he was very good at covering his emotions. He was very private. We told him we loved him lots and he said the same.”

Daniel was reported missing after visiting Plymouth and not returning to his army base.

The family letter said they discovered he wrote a will before travelling to East Sussex on November 4. His body was recovered by Coastguard at Birling Gap after being found at around 11.37pm on November 13, 2018.

Coroner Alan Craze reflected on a report by army medical officer Dr Helen Miles.

He said, “To be perfectly honest they didn’t find anything. The summary of it is purely that he was fit and well physically and mentally as far as his examinations within the army have shown.”

Mr Craze said the report suggested the army would take steps to learn from Daniel’s death.

He said, “There was no evidence of any mental problems. And effectively no indication in advance of what was going to happen. Very often that’s the case.”

The coroner recorded a conclusion Daniel took his own life.

Family members told the Herald after the inquest that Daniel was “so loved” and his death came as a shock.

All Call Signs, a peer-to-peer charity which helps service personnel and veterans talk about mental health issues, raised awareness when Daniel was missing.

They said in a statement to the Herald, “Daniel’s passing was gut-wrenching for all involved. Daniel was the first missing serviceperson that we were unable to bring home. He was a well-liked and obviously hugely loved young man, who tragically, for reasons we may never understand, ended his own life.

“The outpouring of grief from the military and wider community in the wake of his death is testament to just how difficult it is to keep hearing of young servicemen and women who feel they have nowhere to turn for help in dark times.

“Our deepest sympathy is, and will always be with those who knew him and loved him most. If there are any young service personnel or veterans out there in a bad head space, please reach out. There are so many people waiting to help you.

“Speak to a friend you can trust or a family member. If you don’t feel like you can do that call Combat Stress on 0800 138 1619 or you can chat to someone with a military background by hitting the ‘chat now’ button at allcallsigns.org

• If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.

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