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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
UK troops killed on patrol named
Pte Ben Ford
Pte Ben Ford: "Fit, enthusiastic and hard working"
Two British soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan when their vehicle was hit by an explosion on Wednesday have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Private Ben Ford, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and Private Damian Wright, of Mansfield, Notts, died in a fight with the Taleban in Helmand province.

A civilian interpreter died and another soldier was wounded in the battle, in which 20 suspected insurgents died.

The two soldiers were from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

'Tremendous soldier'

Pte Ford, 18, joined the Army in 2005, and joined the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, which became the Mercian Regiment.

He was on his first overseas deployment with the Army.

Lt Col Simon Banton, his commanding officer in the Mercian Regiment, said: "Private Ford was a tremendous young soldier. Fit and enthusiastic, hardworking and committed to his comrades and a career in the Army."

On initial impressions he could come across as a quiet individual but to those who knew him, he had a keen sense of humour and was always willing to get stuck into the action
Maj Paul Gilby

Maj Paul Gilby, his company commanding officer, said: "He was young on paper, at the age of only 18. However, in life he was mature beyond his years in attitude, bearing and ability.

"On initial impressions he could come across as a quiet individual but to those who knew him, he had a keen sense of humour and was always willing to get stuck into the action.

"He proved this by volunteering to compete in the battalion boxing competition where he fought with skill, style and dogged determination."

Pte Scott Barber, a close friend, said: "At weekends we would go out around the town in Chesterfield and almost instantly all my mates were Fordy's mates, he was such a likeable bloke. He was always up for a laugh, the life and soul of any party."

A statement released on behalf of his family said: "We are immensely proud of our son and know that he lost his life doing something he was proud to be a part of and that he loved. "

'Key character'

Pte Wright, 23, joined the Army in 2002, and served in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Bosnia. He also took part in exercises in Kenya, Belize and Cyprus.

Lt Col Simon Banton said: "Pte Wright was one of the key characters in our battalion.

"Full of life, a natural comedian and a man guaranteed to lift the spirits of the most down-hearted.

Damian Wright
Pte Damian Wright: Devoted to his four-year-old son

"He was devoted to his son, Joshua, and our thoughts are with him at this desperate time."

Maj Paul Gilby said: "Small in stature but mighty in character, spirit and life, he was never far from the action, jokes or dramas.

"His main love of his life was his four-year-old son Joshua, who our heart goes out to at this hour.

"Quick-witted, able and professional he had already been selected to attend promotional courses where he would have excelled as usual.

"He was a true soldier, fit, determined, able and keen."

'Courage'

The battle took place at 0915 local time (0445 GMT) on Wednesday, when they were on routine patrol in a Landrover 10.5 miles (17km) north of Lashkar Gah.

Lt Col Bridget Rose, Regional Command South spokesperson, said the explosion was a "profoundly regrettable incident".

Small in stature but mighty in character, spirit and life, he was never far from the action, jokes or dramas
Maj Paul Gilby pays tribute to Pte Damian Wright

"Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) troops, and the Afghans who work alongside them, operate in extremely dangerous conditions," she said.

"It is a testament to their courage, resolve and commitment that they continue to bear down on insurgents bent on destroying the lives of the normal hard-working people in Afghanistan."

Their deaths take to 76 the total number of UK troops killed while on operations in Afghanistan since 2001.

British troops are there as part of the UN-mandated Isaf force, created in December 2001 after the ousting of the Taleban regime.

Some 35,000 Nato-led forces from 37 countries are providing support to the Afghan authorities throughout the country.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Tributes are paid to Pte Ben Ford and Pte Damian Wright






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