Page last updated at 05:17 GMT, Saturday, 27 December 2008

Marine killed in Helmand is named

L/Cpl Ben Whatley
L/Cpl Whatley was said to have "an unbridled enthusiasm for life"

A Royal Marine who was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Eve has been named as L/Cpl Benjamin Whatley by the Ministry of Defence.

The marine, from 42 Commando, died from enemy fire in the Nad-e-Ali district near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.

L/Cpl Whatley, 20, from King's Lynn, in Norfolk, was described as "a vibrant, happy person" by his family.

Some 136 UK troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, including 11 Royal Marines in the past two months.

L/Cpl Whatley was killed in a fierce and prolonged battle while leading his men into action, the MoD said.

A statement released by his family said: "Ben was a vibrant, happy person who had an unbridled enthusiasm for life. He was so proud to be a Royal Marine. His death creates an irreplaceable loss for all his family and friends."

'Strength of friendship'

Later his parents, Sam, 54, and Teresa Whatley, 52, said their Christmas had been put on hold while their son was away.

"We would have had a turkey meal with crackers and poppers once he was home," Mrs Whatley said.

"You never stop worrying when your son is away on a tour. You are on edge for seven months because you never know if you are going to get a phone call or a visit to say something has happened.

"Now we have had that visit which we were dreading."

Major Paul Shergold: 'Our thoughts are with his family'

She added: "He lived every day as if it was his last and always made the best out of every situation.

"He packed more into his 20 years than most people do in 60 years."

Major Paul Shergold from L/Cpl Whatley's barracks at Bickleigh near Plymouth, said: "It's particularly difficult to lose a Royal Marine but on Christmas Eve it has a poignant tone to it.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends and all of the families who have got loved-ones serving abroad."

His commanding officer Lt Col Charlie Stickland, said: "Another 'Smiley Boy' from 42 Commando lost whilst doing the job he loved, in an environment in which he excelled and surrounded by his mates.

"His loss has rocked the entire Commando, particularly the tight and combat hardened band of warriors that are 'Lightning' Lima Company.

"L/Cpl Ben Whatley sat at the heart of a group of comrades bound together through rugged shared experiences, with strength of friendship that many cannot understand.

"He had truly earned his Lance Corporal's stripe and had so much more to give. All he served with knew him as a 'proper bootneck' and an uncompromising friend."

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