Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Basra gunshot death soldier named

Private Ryan Wrathall
A total of 179 UK soldiers have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion

A British soldier who died in a shooting incident in Basra has been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Private Ryan Wrathall, 21, from Surbiton, Surrey, was serving in the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, when he died on Thursday.

He died from a gunshot wound at the Contingency Operating Base. The incident is being investigated, but it is understood nobody else was involved.

The number of UK troops who have died in Iraq since 2003 now stands at 179.

Lt Col Edward Chamberlain said: "The death of any soldier is a personal tragedy both for his family and us, his comrades in arms."

'Maturing visibly'

He added: "Private Wrathall was a fit, enthusiastic and openhearted member of the 5 Rifles Battle Group for this Iraq tour who will be sorely missed by us all.

"I am proud to have served with him, he was a hard-working soldier with a masterful sense of the ridiculous who was maturing visibly through the tour."

Pte Wrathall enlisted into the Army in November 2007 and trained in Canada before being posted to Iraq in November 2008.

His father had recently been seriously ill in Spain and he had travelled there with his mother to visit him.

All our thoughts are with his mother and family now. No words can ease their suffering and nothing can bring him back
Lt Col Charlie Sykes

Lt Col Charlie Sykes said: "A diligent and loving son, Pte Wrathall had a particularly strong relationship with his mother and was always looking to make her proud.

"All our thoughts are with his mother and family now. No words can ease their suffering and nothing can bring him back. Our loss is but a fraction of theirs."

The death was even harder to come to terms with because Basra was at relative peace, he said.

He described Pte Wrathall as quiet and reserved at first, before growing in confidence.

"Kind-hearted and gentle, his personal administration seemed well-designed to test his platoon sergeant's sense of humour," he added.

Defence Secretary John Hutton said: "Private Ryan Wrathall's colleagues and commanders have described him as a man who was professional, courteous, amiable and determined - a testament to his family and a sad loss to the Army.

"I was saddened to hear of his death and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time."

In December last year, two British servicemen died at the same base from gunshot wounds which are thought to have been self-inflicted.

Lance Corporal David Wilson, 27, serving with 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, from West Yorkshire, died from a wound on 4 December.

Corporal Lee Churcher, 32, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, died a week later.

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