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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Welsh soldier killed in Iraq
Lance Corporal Paul Thomas
Lance Corporal Thomas' death has 'shocked' his platoon
Tributes have been paid to a soldier from mid Wales who has been killed in Iraq.

Lance Corporal Paul Thomas, 29, who was single and from Buttington near Welshpool, died after his unit was attacked by gunmen in Basra on Tuesday.

L/Cpl Thomas, a member of the 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry, attached to the 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, had been the city since June.

His second cousin Olga Suddell said the family were "devastated."

Mrs Suddell, from Welshpool, said: "The family are devastated, absolutely devastated.

"Paul's parents David and Joyce will take some considerable time to get over this.

"Paul was their only child and only son."

A small British patrol had been attacked by a large number of militia with firearms and rocket-propelled grenades on Tuesday evening.

A British Army spokesman, Squadron Leader Spike Wilson said: "The patrol defended itself and killed a number of insurgents before withdrawing. Unfortunately, one soldier was killed and another injured."

Mrs Suddell added: "The Army was Paul's life. From a youngster, all he ever wanted to be was a soldier.

"He was a quiet, gentle and a kind man who could be humorous.

British tanks in Basra
British tanks patrol the streets after clashes in Basra on Tuesday

"He was a son and a member of the family to be very proud of.

"When he came home on leave he would stay with his parents in Buttington and would visit his relations.

"He was aged about 19 when he joined the army and was a former Welshpool High School pupil."

British troops have been battling Shia militias thought to be loyal to radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr.

L/Cpl Thomas' platoon commander, Lieutenant Will Follet, said: "'Taff' was a proud Welshman who had a passion for all sports. He was a keen rugby supporter as well as following his local football club, Shrewsbury Town.

"He was an immensely popular member of the platoon, widely regarded as its backbone, through his diligence, professionalism and unfaltering enthusiasm to the job and the soldiers under his command.

"His death has shocked the platoon, especially those soldiers who were with him when he died. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones at this time."

'Sincere sympathy'

Another family friend said the former Welshpool High School pupil had served in Kosovo, Northern Ireland and the Falklands.

He said: "You wouldn't find a more upstanding man. His parents are very shocked. They are a very close family."

Conservative AM for Mid and West Wales Glyn Davies said: "I'm very shocked.

"It brings the sheer horror of Iraq home to you when somebody who lives nearby you is killed, when somebody so young is killed.

"My deepest sympathies go to the family and friends of Paul Thomas."

Retired English teacher Ann Holloway, vice-chair of Powys County Council and Welshpool town councillor said: "People in Welshpool will be shocked by the news of this young person's death."

Miss Holloway, who taught Paul Thomas and his father before him at Welshpool High School, added: "I'm sure they will join me in sending his family my sincere sympathy. It's tragic news."

The BBC's Matthew Price
"Gunmen across the country in a number of cities are taking inspiration from the continuing unrest"


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