British aid worker killed by ‘inhumane act’, says family

British aid convoy attack victims
John Chapman, left, was named alongside James "Jim" Henderson, centre, and James Kirby, right, as three Britons killed in the IDF attack on an aid convoy in Gaza

A British aid worker was killed by an “inhumane act” following an Israeli strike on a convoy, his family said.

John Chapman, 57, who is said to have served in the Royal Marines, died in the bombing of an aid convoy in Gaza on Monday.

His family said in a statement: “We are devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza. He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act. He was an incredible father, husband, son and brother.

“We request we be given space and time to grieve appropriately. He was loved by many and will forever be a hero. He will be missed dearly.”

James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were named alongside Chapman as the three British citizens who were killed by an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) attack on a humanitarian convoy delivering food to Palestinians in Gaza.

All three were former servicemen overseeing security for the World Central Kitchen aid organisation. In total, seven aid workers were killed in the airstrikes.

Kirby, known as Kirbs, was described by his “heartbroken” family as a “genuine gentleman” and “hero” who was driven to help “those in dire need”.

John Chapman
Chapman's family said he 'was loved by many' and 'died trying to help people' - World Central Kitchen/WCK.org

In a statement, his family said: “As a family, we are utterly heartbroken by the loss of our beloved James Kirby. Alongside the other six individuals who tragically lost their lives, he will be remembered as a hero.

“James understood the dangers of venturing into Gaza, drawing from his experiences in the British Armed Forces, where he bravely served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Despite the risks, his compassionate nature drove him to offer assistance to those in dire need.

“A genuine gentleman, James was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even in the face of senseless violence. James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.

“We are so incredibly proud of who James was and what he achieved. Never stop caring and trying to help people, love will eventually overcome hate.”

‘They are all heroes in our eyes’

Adam McGuire, Kirby’s cousin, said a representative of Buckingham Palace had been in contact to arrange for a message of condolence on behalf of the King to the family.

“It is a great comfort to know that they’re thinking of us,” McGuire, 49, a recycling manager, said.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said any messages of condolences would be sent privately.

McGuire said the family wanted answers from Israel and the British Government as to how the tragedy had been allowed to happen.

He said that as of Wednesday afternoon they had not yet received contact from the Israeli government following the airstrike.

He told The Telegraph: “We are just so sad not just for James but the other individuals that have passed away, as we said before they are all heroes in our eyes.”

Kirby, from Bristol, was a British Army sniper marksman and rifleman, having joined up in 1994. On his LinkedIn profile, he says he “maintains a calm demeanour under extreme pressure, including life-threatening situations”.

He had guarded Wimbledon tennis stars as a player escort protecting them as they moved to and from the courts. He also provided security at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.

He took on a series of maritime security and close personal protection security roles, describing himself as “willing and able to work on international assignments, and free to travel as required”.

James 'Jim' Henderson
According to his friends, James 'Jim' Henderson had only been out in Gaza 'a couple of weeks' before his death - World Central Kitchen/WCK.org

Referring to a renovation project in Somerset that he completed last year, he wrote in November: “I am ready to focus on myself once again and step into a new chapter, maybe buy a new shirt instead of another roll of insulation.”

A relative posted on Facebook: “My cousin, James Kirby, killed in Gaza yesterday working to bring aid to innocent people.

“I will always be so proud of our family’s hero. The kindest, funniest and most lovable person. RIP Kirbs.”

In 2018, Kirby told BristolLive how he had lost war medals awarded to him following his service in Belfast, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

He said at the time: “I feel absolutely devastated. These are more than things, it’s like losing family. The return of my medals would mean more to me than most people would understand.

“The thought of comrades and friends that fought alongside me, some of which had lost their lives and many others with life-changing injuries. This thought never leaves my mind. These medals pay homage to all that served.”

Mr Kirby, from Bristol, was a British Army sniper marksman and rifleman
Kirby, from Bristol, was a British Army sniper marksman and rifleman

All three Britons killed in Gaza worked as private security contractors for the UK-based company Solace Global.

Matthew Harding, the non-executive director of Solace Global, told the BBC the men were “all valued team members, to whom we were very close” and it was a “tragic loss”.

He added that the men were working as “security and safety advisors to the convoy”.

Chapman was a former Royal Marine from Dorset. It has also been reported that he served in the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit of the Royal Navy.

Henderson, who was known as Jim, attended Penryn Sports College before starting his career as a roofer in his native Falmouth in Cornwall.

Penryn RFC yesterday flew is club flag at half mast as a sign of respect for the death of Henderson, who had played flanker and No 8 for the rugby club since he was a schoolboy.

James Henderson playing for Penryn Rugby Football Club
Mr Henderson playing for Penryn Rugby Football Club

Following the news of his death on Tuesday, around 40 teammates as well as friends and family met at the clubhouse to toast his memory.

Marek Churcher, the club’s Director of Rugby, said: “He was a really physical lad on the field and a gentle giant off it.

“He was somebody we loved to have around and missed when he was away although when he came home he would often turn up with a pair of boots - or sometimes without -  was always a real presence on the field.

“He was a guy who kept his cards close to his chest about his personal life.

“Everybody is totally shocked by what happened, we gathered last night to raise a glass to him.”It’s not just the rugby club, Falmouth and Penryn is a close nit community and the whole community will miss him a lot.”

Penryn RFC flew its club flag at half mast as a sign of respect for the death of Mr Henderson
Penryn RFC flew its club flag at half mast as a sign of respect for the death of Henderson

His LinkedIn profile says he served in the special forces and was a member of the Royal Marines for six years.

He described himself as “extremely fit and military disciplined” and wrote that as a “military professional, [he] takes the Health and Safety of others very seriously”.

Despite a rich history of service in the Armed Forces, he said his “true vocation lies in security”, though in a “civilian position”.

Upon leaving the military in 2016, he worked as security for a wind farm in the North East, before working a series of close personal security jobs - one based in Iraq - and then on to volunteer with WCK.

According to friends, he had only been out in Gaza “a couple of weeks” before his death.

“As much as it is a horrible thing, it shows how loved he was and how he brought people together. It’s been a really difficult time for those of us who knew him but he will be remembered for a long time.”

The convoy team’s leader, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, an Australian national, also died, along with American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, the charity said.

The bodies of the six foreign aid workers began the journey back to their home countries on Wednesday when they were transferred out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, Egyptian state television reported.

Abutaha’s remains were handed over to his family for burial in Gaza.

The other bodies were driven into Egypt through the Rafah crossing.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.