Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 13:28 UK

Marines killed in Helmand named

Lieutenant John Thornton and Marine David Marsh. Picture courtesy of the Ministry of Defence
Lt John Thornton and Marine David Marsh were killed in a blast

Two Royal Marines killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Lieutenant John Thornton, 23, and Marine David Marsh, 22, of 40 Commando Royal Marines, died on Sunday on a routine patrol in Helmand province.

It is understood their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said their deaths were to be deeply regretted, and he paid tribute to their courage and contribution to the country.

The number of deaths of UK service personnel now totals 91 - all but five of which were in the last two years.

Lt Thornton, from Ferndown in Dorset, joined the Royal Marines in 2004 and had previously served in Iraq.

In a statement, his family said his death would leave a "massive gap" in all their lives.

He was a resolute and formidable soldier in battle, a larger than life character who impressed all who met him
Lt Col Stuart Birrell, commanding officer 40 Commando Royal Marines

It went on: "He died a hero following his dream and doing the job he loved. He was proud to be making a difference to both the people of Afghanistan, and to all of us back home who value our freedom."

Lt Col Stuart Birrell, commanding officer of 40 Commando Royal Marines, said Lt Thornton's untimely death was a tragedy which had caused "great sadness" across the Royal Marines.

"He led from the front and provided an outstanding example to his peers and his men alike; he was a resolute and formidable soldier in battle, a larger than life character who impressed all who met him."

Marine Marsh, who joined the marines in 2002, was originally from Sheffield but had moved to Taunton in Somerset with his family.

'Our hero'

His wife, Claire, said: "David was a loving and dedicated family man. He went through life with a smile on his face, which will continue through our beautiful daughter.

"The Royal Marines was his passion and love, he will always be our hero."

Lt Col Birrell said Marine Marsh's resolve and determination to succeed in all he undertook was "truly breathtaking".

"A consummate professional, he was deeply respected in his company; in battle he was steadfast and utterly dependable, in barracks he was a true friend and comrade whose presence was a comfort in difficult times," he added.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said: "Both of them embodied the skills and qualities central to the Royal Marines ethos and their loss will resonate amongst all who knew them."

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