Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 08:11 UK

Tributes paid to veteran airman

Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson was a father-of-five

Tributes have been paid to the oldest British serviceman killed in the wars in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Gary Thompson, 51, of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and another serviceman were killed on 13 April by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

His family said Senior Aircraftman Thompson, a managing director in Nottingham, was "the rock and foundation of our family".

He had said his five daughters had inspired him to fight the Taleban.

Also killed in the blast near Kandahar Airfield on Sunday was Graham Livingstone, 23, of the Royal Air Force Regiment, from Glasgow.

He leaves one young son. Two other personnel were injured in the attack.

The men had been taking part in a security patrol in Daman District as part of Support Weapons Flight of 3 Squadron RAF Regiment, when the general purpose Land Rover they were travelling in struck a roadside bomb.

Success in business

Senior Aircraftman Thompson joined the RAF in 1973 and was based at RAF Cottesmore in Leicestershire but left four years later to pursue a career in business.

I want women in Afghanistan to be given the same opportunity that my daughters have had
Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson

He became managing director of Sherwood Ducting Limited in Nottingham but in 2005 he became a reservist, serving as a gunner and later a mortar man in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Mr Thompson joined No 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron.

His family said: "Gary was more than our hero, he was the rock and foundation of our family.

"Words cannot express how much he was loved and how proud of him we are. Gary, you have had our hearts from the beginning and now they are yours forever."

He leaves behind his wife Jacqui and five daughters: Laurie, 24, Aimee, 22, Jordan, 20, Jade, 17 and Kelly, 16 - who he said inspired him to serve in the war against the Taleban.

In February, SAC Thompson told his local paper, the Rutland and Stamford Mercury: "I have five daughters, three of whom are at university.

map of Afghanistan
Both men were killed at Kandahar airport

"I want women in Afghanistan to be given the same opportunity that my daughters have had.

"It means I can come back and say I have played my part in trying to make that happen."

SAC Thompson was third XV vice-captain at Southwell rugby club and spokesman, Andrew Smith, said there would be a minute's silence in his memory at several rugby matches in Nottinghamshire this weekend.

"He was at the centre of a lot of club activities over the past few years. He was always the life and soul of the club."

'Humour and skill'

His commanding officer, Squadron Leader Richard Langley described SAC Thompson, nicknamed Tommo, as "a consummate professional soldier and airman".

"He was not one to seek the attention, but was the voice of calm and reason who continuously supported the squadron's less-experienced gunners," he said.

Senior Aircraftman Graham  Livingstone
Senior Aircraftman Graham Livingstone served with the RAF Regiment

Sqn Ldr Langley said the regiment's thoughts were with their families, adding: "The loss of Tommo and Livi is a tragic blow to all who knew, trained and fought alongside them.

"Both men were immensely popular and professional, and the humour both brought to the squadron was immeasurable."

Defence Secretary Des Browne said he was "greatly saddened" by the deaths.

"They were both extremely well liked and popular airmen and will be sorely missed by all who knew them."

The deaths bring the number of UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan to 93.

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