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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Regiment 'numbed' by Iraq death
Gunner Lee Darren Thornton
Gunner Lee Darren Thornton's unit came under fire in Al-Qurna
A British serviceman who died two days after a shooting in Iraq was the "epitome of the professional soldier," the Ministry of Defence has said.

The death of Lee Darren Thornton, 22, from Blackpool, who died on Thursday, was said to have "numbed" colleagues.

The gunner served in 58 Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery - the same unit that lost two soldiers on Monday.

It was typical of his character that he volunteered to participate in the next patrol, said his commanding officer.

"This gesture of defiance by Lee and his colleagues was aimed at the people who perpetrated the first attack," said Lieutenant Colonel Jon Campbell.

"He showed no hesitation in driving out of the security of the Shaibah Logistics Base and facing the ever-present threat to British soldiers in Iraq."

Compassionate man

Lt Col Campbell said the death has touched the regiment.

"We are all numbed by his passing, especially as we had clung to hope that he would survive and pull through," he said.

The MoD said his patrol came under fire near a building used to plan reconstruction in the town of Al-Qurna, north of Basra on Tuesday.

He was the epitome of the professional soldier; diligent, motivated, enthusiastic and tremendously fit,

"His injuries were so serious that, despite the best treatment available, the medical team involved were unable to save him," it said in a statement.

The soldier was the 118th member of the British armed forces to die while serving in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.

Gunner Thornton's parents and his fiancee were all present at his bedside when he died.

He had been taken to Germany for treatment, where his regiment is normally based.

It is part of the Danish-led Basra rural north battle group.

The MoD said Gunner Thornton had wanted to be a soldier from an early age and enlisted in Blackpool at the age of 16.

In addition to exercises in Germany, the UK, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Poland and Canada, he took part in Operation Telic 1 in Iraq in 2003.

"He was the epitome of the professional soldier; diligent, motivated, enthusiastic and tremendously fit," it said.

"He was also a compassionate man and had run a marathon for charity in Blackpool in 2005, entirely of his own initiative and organisation."

Two of his colleagues were killed by a roadside bomb on Monday.

Gunner Stephen Wright and Gunner Samuela Vanua, both members of 12 Regiment Royal Artillery, were killed in an explosion near Ad Dayr, north of Basra, on 4 September.

A total of 22 members of the British armed forces have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of September; 19 in the latter and three in the former.

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