It was a chance encounter on a Cornish beach that brought these two exceptional men together. 

But tragically, just months after composer Kit Hesketh-Harvey and soldier Olaf Schmid first met, Sergeant Schmid’s life was cut short.

The bomb disposal expert was killed in action in 2009, while serving in Afghanistan.

And while their happenstance may have been brief, Mr Hesketh-Harvey was instantly inspired by the story of his life and tragic death.

Now, the legacy of the pair crossing paths has been forever immortalised with a poignant memorial.

Eastern Daily Press: Kit Hesketh-Harvey

The composer, James McConnel, who lives near Holt in north Norfolk, recently completed a cantata envisioned by Mr Hesketh-Harvey.

A vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, the piece is set to be performed publicly for the first time. 

But it will be a bittersweet accomplishment, as Mr McConnel explains. 

“When Kit first came to me with the idea, I was really interested in the story as it was fascinating,” he said. 

“Then in 2011, my 18-year-old son Freddy died, and I could not face writing anymore.” 

Eastern Daily Press: James McConnel

By this time, Mr Hesketh-Harvey was so moved by the soldier's story and the impact his death had on others, he had finished writing the libretto, also known as the text. 

But the project had to be put on hold. 

Mr McConnel added: “Several years later, I was able to get back to it. 

“I was no longer tainted by grief or trauma and, instead, I was able to look at it in an objective way. 

“In fact, the idea became more poignant due to Freddy.” 

Eastern Daily Press:

Mr McConnel finished the piece during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. 

Unfortunately, further heartache occurred. 

Mr Hesketh-Harvey, of Downham Market and Norwich, died on February 1. He was 65. 

Mr McConnel said: “It started being about one person and ended up being inspired by three.” 

Now the piece is due to be performed publicly for the first time, having been performed at Mr Hesketh-Harvey's funeral. 

It tells Olaf’s story from his wife’s perspective, years after his death, with a chorus made up of soldiers and a 21-piece orchestra. 

Eastern Daily Press: St Margaret's Church in Cley

Entitled “Olaf Schmid” the performance will be conducted by Stephen Threlfall at St Margaret’s Church at Cley, near Holt, from 7pm on Armistice Day on November 11.  

Entrance is free and donations will be collected for the Legacy of War Foundation. 



Staff Sergeant Olaf Sean George Schmid (11 June 1979 – 31 October 2009) was a British Army bomb disposal expert and an ammunition technician who was killed in action in Afghanistan. 

He arrived there during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand Province.  

Schmid was defusing a device in Sangin when it exploded, killing him instantly.

Eastern Daily Press: Olaf Sean George Schmid (11 June 1979 – 31 October 2009)

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding 2nd Rifles Battle Group, paid tribute to him. 

He said: "Staff-Sergeant Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met. Under relentless IED and small arms attacks he stood taller than the tallest." 

Schmid was posthumously awarded the George Cross after he made safe 64 devices. It was the 65th device, a homemade bomb, which exploded and took his life instantly. 

The citation was presented to Schmid's widow, Christina Schmid, by the chief of the defence staff Sir Jock Stirrup in March 2010 in a ceremony in London.  

Eastern Daily Press: Olaf Schmid's wife, Christina, speaking at his memorial service

Schmid was born in Truro, Cornwall, to a German mother, Barbara, and a Swedish father, Hans-Jörg Schmid.  

He was educated at Penair School in Truro and was a choir boy in Truro cathedral choir, ultimately becoming head chorister.

Schmid lived in Winchester, Hampshire, with his wife Christina and his step-son Laird. 

Schmid joined the British Army in 1996, enlisting in the Royal Logistic Corps and shortly afterwards he applied to train as a bomb disposal specialist.  

He served in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and Kosovo before being sent to Afghanistan in June 2009.