Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 14:50 UK

Dead soldier in Afghanistan named

Bombardier Craig Hopson
Bombardier Hopson was described as a "a proud, steadfast Yorkshireman"

The UK soldier who died in an explosion in Afghanistan on 25 July has been named as Bombardier Craig Hopson.

Bombardier Hopson, 24, of Castleford, West Yorkshire, had been serving with the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Lowland Gunners).

He died while on a vehicle patrol in the Babaji area of Helmand, the Ministry of Defence said.

In a statement, Bombardier Hopson's family said: "Craig was the light in so very many lives."

'Larger than life'

Bombardier Hopson had been travelling in a Jackal vehicle when it was struck by an improvised explosive device, an MoD spokesperson said.

The MoD added that as part of Operation Panther's Claw - designed to take and secure land in Helmand province ahead of next month's presidential elections - he had been looking for a suitable location for a polling station.

He was the 20th British serviceman to die in Afghanistan in July 2009 and the 189th British soldier to die in the country since 2001.

He leaves behind his mother Lynn, his partner Eleanor and their three-month-old daughter Amelia.

"Hoppo", as he was known to his comrades, was "a larger than life character and always at the centre of the action", the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson continued: "Be it in the thick of the fight in Afghanistan on one of numerous Black Watch Operations, or back in barracks with his mates, his contribution was always characterised by good humour and the often painful honesty of a proud, steadfast Yorkshireman."

He served as second in command of a fire support team and had previously undertaken tours in Iraq and Cyprus.

He was loved so much
Family statement

In a statement, his family said that the light in so many lives "has now gone out".

It added: "His family and many, many friends will love him and miss him forever.

"Craig the legend. Our Craig has left a hole in our lives that no-one else can ever fill. He was loved so much."

Lt Col Owen Adams, Commanding Officer of 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, said Bombardier Hopson was "a man with an enormous personality and a huge heart".

Lt Col Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer, The Black Watch, 3 Scots Battle Group, added: "He was a big man in every sense: a huge character, great fun and professionally immensely talented."

Major Matt Munro, Officer Commanding Alpha (Grenadier) Company, said Bombardier Hopson "swelled with pride" when he spoke of his daughter.

Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the loss of Bombardier Hopson.

The defence secretary added: "By all accounts, he was a highly skilled and professional soldier, a very popular character with an infectious sense of humour, and a proud father.

"My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time."

Bombardier Hopson's death was announced on the same day as the funeral of Rifleman James Backhouse, 18, also of Castleford.

Rifleman Backhouse died in an explosion near Sangin in Helmand just days before he was due to make a surprise visit home to see his family.

Four other soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles were also killed in the explosion on 10 July.

Friends and family have been gathering for the teenager's funeral service at Holy Cross Church in Castleford.

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