Page last updated at 21:41 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Soldier 'showed great potential'

Rifleman Stuart Nash
Rifleman Nash, 21, was "determined to succeed"

A British Army soldier killed by enemy gunfire in southern Afghanistan has been named as Rifleman Stuart Nash.

The Ministry of Defence said Rifleman Nash, 21, from the 1st Battalion The Rifles, was an Australian national and his family lived in Australia.

His parents said they were "shattered" by the death of their son.

Rifleman Nash had only joined the Army in March. His team commander described him as "one of the most promising new soldiers" he had worked with.

His parents, Bill and Amanda Nash, said: "We are shattered, of course, by the news but Stuart was doing what he most wanted to do in life, having harboured a wish for a military career since joining the cadets at the age of 13.

"He went to the UK to join up to get a better opportunity to do real soldiering, which he has done, if only briefly."

He was a polite man of strong faith who was always happy, and always ready to put others before himself
Major Robert Connolly

An MoD spokesman said Rifleman Nash was taking part in an operation against enemy forces in an area north west of Lashkar Gah in Helmand.

Rifleman Nash was wounded on Wednesday as he covered comrades from a compound rooftop.

He was treated at the scene and then flown to Camp Bastion for further treatment, but died from his injuries.

His death takes the number of UK troops killed in Afghanistan to 134.

'Gentlemanly manner'

Rifleman Nash was born in Sydney and had only enlisted in The Rifles in Gloucester this year.

He attended the combat infantryman's course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Major Robert Connolly, his company commander at Catterick, said he was a "thoroughly professional young soldier who embodied the value of the British Army".

He talked of his desire to buy a sports car and tinker with it on return to the UK, such was his constant, optimistic and industrious approach to life
Major Mark Nooney

Rifleman Nash passed out of Catterick on 19 September and was assigned to the 1st Battalion The Rifles in Chepstow.

Following pre-deployment training in the UK, he joined the battalion on operations in Afghanistan, where he was quickly christened "Oz" by his fellow Riflemen.

Maj Connolly added: "Although the newest and youngest member of his team, his gentlemanly manner and thorough professionalism instantly gained him acceptance.

"He was a polite man of strong faith who was always happy, and was always ready to put others before himself.

"If he was ever the man left behind, the returning patrol was always greeted with chopped wood for a fire and hot water for brews."

Modest and honest

His commanding officer in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Cavanagh, had a "brew" with him the day before he was killed.

Lt Col Cavanagh said: "He was honest about the difficulty and danger of his work, modest about his own reserves of courage, robust and determined to succeed.

"He was already enthusing - utterly realistically - about joining the battalion's reconnaissance or sniper platoons after this operation in Afghanistan. He would have been superb in either.

"He fell a hero, in combat alongside his fellow Riflemen."

Rifleman Nash's battle group commander Major Mark Nooney said he was "young, bright and ambitious" and showed "great potential".

"He talked of his desire to buy a sports car and tinker with it on return to the UK, such was his constant, optimistic and industrious approach to life," said Maj Nooney.

Rifleman Nash's team commander, Captain Iwan Williams, said: "He was one of the most promising new soldiers I have worked with; his intelligence and enthusiasm marked him out among his peers.

"He will be missed greatly."

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