A SOLDIER remembered fondly by the Duke of Sussex after being killed in an elephant charge in Malawi was climbing a tree in a bid to escape, an inquest has heard.

Prince Harry honoured Mathew Talbot by laying a wreath at a memorial by laying a wreath at a memorial during a visit to Liwonde National Park in 2019.

A handwritten message attached to the wreath from Prince Harry said: “In grateful memory of Guardsman Talbot who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country and conservation. Rest in Peace.”

A comrade of Coldstream Guardsman Mathew Talbot told an inquest on Monday, October 18, how the soldier was attacked as he tried to climb a tree in a bid to escape an elephant.

The Argus: The 22-year-old suffered fatal injuries while navigating as part of an eight-day, five-man anti-poaching patrol The 22-year-old suffered fatal injuries while navigating as part of an eight-day, five-man anti-poaching patrol

Lance Sergeant Robert Padgham told Oxford Coroner’s Court how he pulled an injured Mr Talbot into cover, before providing medical assistance and helping to carry him on a stretcher to a vehicle pick-up point.

The inquest was told how the 22-year-old suffered fatal injuries while navigating as part of an eight-day, five-man anti-poaching patrol on May 5, 2019.

Mr Padgham gave evidence to the hearing via video-link, explaining that he was forced to twice climb a tree to ensure he was not injured by a number of elephants.

The soldier, who used two firecrackers in an attempt to scare away the animals, said: “At about 10.00 hours we were patrolling through elephant grass, which is roughly seven feet in height and visibility is limited.

“An elephant appeared roughly five metres to my right.”

The inquest was told that both soldiers and three park rangers began running in different directions, before Mr Talbot attempted to climb a “prominent branch” of the tree, where he was “thrown” and “knocked” into the air.

Mr Padgham described the actions of the elephant as a sweeping motion with its head.

“As I went down to him initially, I dragged him into the cover of that tree,” he said.

Mr Padgham said they had been taught to fire warning shots to scare away animals posing a danger, only as a last resort.

“In my mind personally, if an attack like that happened and I was in a position to, I would have fired a warning shot,” he added.

Explaining why he had not fired a warning shot after climbing into a tree during the elephant attack, he said: “The sharp shooter is quite long-barrelled.

“I was hanging on the tree with one hand. I didn’t want to fire a shot in the direction where the animal was in case of hitting Mathew.”

The Argus: Mathew TalbotMathew Talbot

A report into the death identified the “leadership and personal strength” of Mr Padgham in evacuating his colleague on a stretcher and controlling a haemorrhage as being “initially life-saving”.

The first day of the inquest was also told Mr Talbot, from Great Barr, West Midlands, died from complications of chest and soft tissue injuries.

Statements were also read on behalf of the park rangers who took part in the patrol, including one who said he was aware of an elephant “chasing me personally” – prompting him to fire a warning shot to scare it away.

The inquest, sitting without a jury, follows a Ministry of Defence (MoD) service inquiry which was published last year.

This highlighted shortcomings in estimating how long it would take to get a casualty from a remote location to the nearest hospital.

The inquest will hear evidence over two weeks, covering the command and management of the incident, preparation and procedures in force in Malawi and resources available at the time.

The hearing continues.