The 150th member of the British military to die in Iraq was carrying out a "supremely selfless act" when he was shot, his commanding officer said.
Cpl Rodney Wilson was killed by small arms fire
Cpl Rodney Wilson, 30, from A Company, 4th Battalion The Rifles, was killed as he rescued a wounded colleague in heavy fire on Thursday.
His fiancee Michelle said: "I loved him deeply. I miss him. A huge part of my life has been taken away."
He died during a mission to detain insurgents, the MoD said.
Three other coalition troops were hurt in the operation in Basra's Al Atiyah area but none sustained life threatening injuries, the MoD added.
After being shot, Cpl Wilson, who was born in Germany, was flown by helicopter to the field hospital in the British base at Basra Air Station but died from his injuries at 0220 local time (2320 BST).
The Rifles are operating in Iraq as part of 1st Mechanised Brigade and the operation resulted in the brigade uncovering the largest weapons cache it has found to date.
Five suspected insurgents were also detained.
Cpl Rodney Wilson was a natural leader, his officers said
Cpl Wilson, based at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, served as a section commander in the Rifles and was awarded a distinction in the Platoon Sergeant's Battle Course - placing him in the top 2% of infantry soldiers.
He leaves a fiancee as well as his family, friends and dog Missy.
His commanding officer, Lt Col Patrick Sanders, described him as a "charismatic and inspiring" figure who led his men by example and gave up his life for a colleague.
Referring to the way Cpl Wilson died, he said: "It was a supremely selfless and brave act - he would not have thought twice - and he gave his life that one of his beloved riflemen might live.
"He had that rare gift of natural leadership that comes to only a few; clarity of thought, crisp and sure-footed decision-making, strength of purpose and a happy combination of a magnetic personality and absolute self-assurance that drew riflemen to him.
"Where Cpl Wilson led, others would always follow. He was, in the words of his own riflemen, 'a legend'."
'A free spirit'
He added that Cpl Wilson was also a "maverick" who loved to challenge convention and upset apple carts.
"One just had to admire him - he could charm the birds out of the trees, call black white, inflict a mischievous prank on you and have you agreeing with him and laughing all at the same time," he said.
"He was remarkable and truly unique - a free spirit - and we will all miss him terribly."
Cpl Wilson's company commander, Maj Mark Wilson, described him as a joker who recently covered the inside of a colleague's helmet with shoe polish.
He was an avid rugby supporter, who loved Australia and planned to move there to join the Australian Army, he added.
"I knew Cpl Wilson, or Will as he was known to his friends, for four years and I can honestly say that he was the epitome of the thinking rifleman," he said.
"A deep-thinker, intelligent and, irritatingly, nearly always right; he was in every sense an impressive man."
He said as he had set off on the operation that would end his life, he had a look of "sheer excitement".
Cpl Wilson is the 150th member of the UK armed forces to die in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.