Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Sunday, 12 July 2009 19:25 UK

MoD names six fallen UK soldiers

Clockwise from top left: Daniel Simpson, James Backhouse, William Aldridge, Lee Scott, Joseph Murphy and Jonathan Horne
The six men were killed on Friday, during an offensive against the Taliban

Six soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Friday - three of whom were aged 18 - have been named by defence officials.

Five members of the County Down-based 2nd Battalion The Rifles died in two explosions near Sangin, Helmand.

They were: Cpl Jonathan Horne, and Riflemen Joseph Murphy, Daniel Simpson, William Aldridge and James Backhouse.

A 2nd Royal Tank Regiment corporal killed in an explosion near Nad Ali was named as Lee Scott, a 26-year-old father-of-two, from Norfolk.

Four more Nato soldiers, all of them American, were killed by roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan on Saturday.

Lt Col Robert Thomson, commanding officer of 2 Rifles, said it had been a "grim day" in Sangin as they honoured their dead.

We are profoundly grateful for the sacrifices your brave soldiers make for us
Helmand Governor Gulab Managal

The deaths of the three 18-year-olds matches the number previously killed at that age during almost eight years of conflict in Afghanistan.

There has been mounting criticism of the UK's involvement in Afghanistan as 15 servicemen have been killed in the first 10 days of the month.

'Critical shortage'

However Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the mission was showing "signs of success" and he praised the efforts of UK troops as magnificent.

But critics have said up to 4,000 more troops - backed by helicopters to keep them away from roadside bombs - were needed.

Former defence secretary Lord King said the helicopter shortage was "critical".

UK troops have spent recent weeks on an offensive - codenamed Panther's Claw - which is designed to increase security ahead of Afghan elections planned for next month.

It has coincided with a sharp increase in the number of British soldiers killed, with eight fatalities in the space of 24 hours between Thursday and Friday.

One hundred and eighty-four service personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001, more than the 179 who were killed during the war in Iraq.

Meanwhile Col Thomson said all the riflemen who died in Friday's attacks would have wanted UK forces to "crack on".

He said: "They lived and fought alongside us and tonight our lives are much worse for them not being here. But we can celebrate what they were and what they achieved. We are so very proud of them."

Flowers have been left at the entrance to Abercorn Barracks, in Ballykinler, where the riflemen were based.

Rifleman Murphy, 18, from Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, had been carrying wounded "battle-buddy" Rifleman Simpson to safety when killed by a makeshift bomb, the Ministry of Defence said.

'Sorrow'

Rifleman Simpson, 20, from Croydon, south London, also died in the explosion. He had an eight-month-old son, Alfie.

Capt Edward Poynter described Rifleman Murphy as a keen Aston Villa fan and "the joker of the company".

"He gave his life while trying to save that of his fellow rifleman," he added.

Capt Poynter described Rifleman Simpson as the "lynchpin of 9 Platoon".

"A big man, he was always ready to help his fellow Riflemen. He could carry the weight of 10 men and often did."

Cpl Horne, 28, from Walsall, West Midlands, had been in the army since 2004. He leaves a wife, Rachel, and two children, Frankie and Jessica.

UK soldiers in Afghanistan
Ministers have rejected claims that troops are ill-equipped

Col Thomson described him as selfless, capable and a "natural field soldier who relished the challenge of preparing for the intensity and complexity of operations in Afghanistan".

The battalion's two other dead soldiers were also 18.

Rifleman Aldridge, from Bromyard, Herefordshire, was one of the youngest soldiers deployed in Helmand, having celebrated his birthday on 23 May.

Rifleman Backhouse, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, was just a few months older.

Commanding officer of C Company, Maj Alistair Field, said Rifleman Aldridge had come to his aid when they were both hurt in the first explosion.

"We were both injured and in shock together but he comforted me with his patience and kind words," said Maj Field.

"Sadly his life was snatched by another explosion."

Rifleman Backhouse, said Maj Field, could always be relied on and was quick to volunteer for any task.

'Instinctive soldier'

Cpl Scott, from King's Lynn, had died hours earlier while leading his section of Viking armoured vehicles.

He leaves a wife, Nikki, four-year-old son Kai and eight-month-old daughter Brooke.

His squadron leader, Maj Charlie Burbridge, described him as an "instinctive soldier" with a "keen and canny tactical brain".

"He was charismatic, inspirational and hugely popular with everyone in my squadron," he added.

Governor of Helmand Province Gulab Managal offered condolences to the soldiers' families on behalf of the people of Helmand.

He said: "Your sorrow is our sorrow.

"We are profoundly grateful for the sacrifices your brave soldiers make for us because we know that they fight to give us, and our children - a future free of tyranny and fear.

"They did not die in vain."



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