Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Sunday, 16 August 2009 07:33 UK

Soldiers died helping colleague

Captain Mark Hale, Rifleman Daniel Wild and Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton
The three soldiers were providing security for a meeting of local elders

Two UK soldiers killed by an explosion in Afghanistan had been trying to carry to safety a comrade injured in an earlier blast, it has emerged.

Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, of 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, from Haxby, North Yorkshire, was hit by a blast in Helmand on Thursday.

Rifleman Daniel Wild, from County Durham, and Capt Mark Hale went to his aid but were caught in a second blast.

Capt Hale died later of his injuries, but the other two died at the scene.

Capt Hale, 42, and Rifleman Wild, 19, were from 2nd Battalion The Rifles.

The details emerged as the men were named by the Ministry of Defence on Saturday.

Capt Hale genuinely had an aura about him - it seems inconceivable that he has gone
Lt Col Rupert Jones MBE

The details were released hours before it was announced that another soldier had been killed in Helmand, taking to 200 the number of UK personnel killed since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001.

Nine have now been killed this month - 22 were killed in July - as troops aim to shore up security ahead of Afghan elections on 20 August.

In Thursday's incident, Lance Bombardier Hatton was among three men injured when an improvised explosive detonated.

They had been patrolling as part of an operation aimed at providing security for a pre-election Shura, or meeting of elders.

Capt Hale and Rifleman Wild went to his aid and were carrying him to a helicopter landing zone when a second bomb went off.

Lt Col Rupert Jones MBE, commanding officer of 4 Rifles, described Capt Hale, originally from Bournemouth, as "a legend".

"Honourable, intelligent, utterly professional and loyal. He has touched the lives of so many people over his 20-plus years' service," he said.

"He had that air of self-confidence, born of quality, which the very finest soldiers have.

"However, it is his wonderfully warm character that I will remember most, always a big smile on his face. He genuinely had an aura about him. It seems inconceivable that he has gone."

'Extraordinary burden'

Lt Col Rob Thomson MBE, of the Rifles Battlegroup, described Rifleman Wild, from Easington in County Durham, as a "fearless" soldier who died while carrying a wounded friend to safety.

"He has been fearless and his platoon adored him for it.

"He was smaller than most - smaller than everyone, if I am being honest - and when laden appeared to disappear under the extraordinary burden the boys all carry here.

"But Rifleman Wild carried his load lightly and was in no sense a 'small man'. In a land of metaphorical giants here in Sangin, he was as tall as any of them, perhaps more so."

Lance Bombardier Hatton lived to excel in his chosen profession
Lt Col Owen Adams

In a family statement, the parents of Lance Bombardier Hatton - Jill and Philip - said he had wanted to be a soldier from a young age.

"He passionately enjoyed his job and often talked fondly about his colleagues and friends," it read.

"He was very brave and a credit to both us and the Army. We are really proud of him."

Lance Bombardier Hatton was a member of a Fire Support Team, which is responsible for providing covering artillery fire.

His commanding officer, Lt Col Owen Adams, described him as a character who "stood out in a crowd".

"He revelled in the bond that is commonplace amongst soldiers who serve in small teams across the Army and he lived to excel in his chosen profession," he said.

The Ministry of Defence has released no further details about Capt Hale.

The three soldiers were serving with the Rifles Battlegroup when they were killed.

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