Page last updated at 22:10 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 23:10 UK

Soldiers killed by blasts named

Acting Serjeant Stuart McGrath (left) and Trooper Brett Hall
Acting Serjeant Stuart McGrath (left) and Trooper Brett Hall

Two British soldiers killed by separate explosions in Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Acting Serjeant Stuart McGrath, 28, from 2nd Battalion The Rifles, was on foot patrol in the Gereshk district of central Helmand province when he died.

Trooper Brett Hall, 21, from 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, also died on Wednesday in a UK hospital after being wounded in Afghanistan on Saturday.

A total of 216 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

'Loved by all'

Trooper Hall, from Dartmouth, Devon, joined the Army in November 2006, aged 18. He leaves behind parents Susan and Peter.

He died in hospital at the Royal College of Defence Medicine in Selly Oak, Birmingham, after being injured while travelling in an armoured vehicle in the north-west of Helmand on Saturday.

His commanding officer, Lt Col Marcus Simson, said: "Known regimentally as Albert, Trooper Hall's death leaves an indescribable hole in our hearts and it is only some consolation that he died whilst surrounded by his family.

We have lost a star and the hole he leaves behind is huge
Lt Col Rob Thomson on Acting Serjeant Stuart McGrath

"He was loved by all who knew him as a happy, hard-working young man who was full of fun, was desperately proud of his squadron and their achievements in Afghanistan, and who cared deeply about his mates.

"We are proud to have known him and to have served alongside him."

Acting Serjeant McGrath, a father-of-four, was born in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, and had joined the Army in 1999.

His wife said: "Stuart was a loving husband, amazing father, son, brother cousin and a friend to many.

"We are all so very proud of him and what he achieved. He died doing a job he loved. He is our hero and we will never forget him."

'Brilliant mortarman'

Lt Col Rob Thomson, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion The Rifles said Acting Serjeant McGrath had been one of "2 Rifles' rock-hard mortarmen".

"There was nothing he did not know about mortaring that was worth knowing. It is easy to be good at mortaring but to be brilliant at mortaring is extraordinarily difficult.

"We have lost a star and the hole he leaves behind is huge."

Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth paid tribute to the men.

He said: "It is clear that both men had carved out excellent reputations in their regiments, and were considered to have even brighter futures ahead of them.

"My thoughts are with their families, friends and colleagues who must be feeling a great sense of loss at this time."

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