Page last updated at 20:34 GMT, Sunday, 9 September 2007 21:34 UK

UK troops killed on patrol named

Sergeant Craig Brelsford (pic supplied by MoD)
Sgt Brelsford died while trying to rescue Pte Botha

Two British soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Sergeant Craig Brelsford and Private Johan Botha, from 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment, were killed during a firefight with Taleban insurgents.

Sgt Brelsford, 25, died while trying to find Pte Botha, also 25, who had fallen behind enemy lines in Helmand province.

A number of other soldiers were injured in the "heavy firefight", including two who remain in a serious condition.

A tribute from his commanding officer said Sgt Brelsford, who is from Nottingham, had died in "heroic circumstances" trying to rescue wounded colleagues, including Pte Botha.

'Exceptionally courageous'

Major Jamie Nowell said: "I am convinced that if he had been given the opportunity to choreograph his own death it would not have been dissimilar to the heroic circumstances in which he died.

"He repeatedly fought through tenacious enemy fire to extract casualties and was hit on his final attack to find Private Botha, also killed in action, who had fallen behind enemy lines.

Private Johan Botha (pic supplied by MoD)
Pte Johan Botha was described as the archetypal South African

"This exceptionally courageous act of bravery and selfless commitment personified the character of Sergeant Brelsford."

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Banton said: "Sergeant Craig Brelsford was a hugely popular man and a superb senior non-commissioned officer; fit, strong and robust, he led from the front.

"Junior soldiers were inspired by him and aspired to follow the example he set. He was assured a bright future and had an enormous amount of potential."

'Devoted family man'

Pte Johan Botha, born in Pretoria, South Africa, was described as a "mountain of a man".

He had moved to the UK four years ago with his wife and the couple have a young daughter.

Maj Nowell said: "Private Botha was the archetypal South African - incredibly proud, strong, tough, robust and an excellent soldier.

"On the flip side he was a devoted family man; the strong bond and sense of responsibility he held for his wife and daughter were humbling."

Helmand map

Friend and colleague Private Kevin Latham said he had fought to the very end.

"Our section was engaged heavily by an enemy position with intense and accurate fire used to pin us down. In the thick of this was Private Botha," he said.

"Private Botha was injured and he went to ground... despite his severe injuries he was still able to engage the enemy until the very end, ensuring the safety of all his mates."

The Ministry of Defence said the soldiers were killed on Saturday when their patrol came under attack during an operation to disrupt Taleban activity south of Garmsir.

'Ultimate sacrifice'

Defence Secretary Des Browne said the deaths were "very sad".

"These brave men have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and I am sure that they will be sorely missed by all who knew them," he said.

"I would like to offer my sincere condolences to their families and friends, who are in my thoughts at this difficult time."

The injured soldiers were evacuated for medical treatment at Camp Bastion and Kandahar Airfield.

Two soldiers from the same regiment were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

The casualties takes to 78 the total number of UK troops killed while on operations in Afghanistan since 2001.

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