Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 19:51 UK

UK soldier killed in blast named

Cpl James Oakland
Cpl Oakland's family said they were "immensely proud" of him

A British soldier killed in a blast in Afghanistan's Helmand province has been named as Corporal James Oakland, 26, of the Royal Military Police.

The Ministry of Defence said Cpl Oakland, from New Moston, Manchester, was on foot patrol near Gereshk when an improvised explosive device detonated.

His commanding officer described him as "an inspiring character".

Cpl Oakland's death on Thursday takes the number of UK troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 222.

The MoD said Cpl Oakland joined the Army in 2002 and deployed to Afghanistan two months early to replace another British military casualty.

He was conducting a search for IEDs to try to clear a route for colleagues when he was fatally wounded.

'Natural leader'

In a statement, his family said: "We are immensely proud of James, the person he was and the job that he did.

"He was a true friend, loving son, grandson, brother and boyfriend, who will be dearly missed and never forgotten."

His keen wit brightened many a dark moment
Maj Andy Lewis

His commanding officer in the counter-IED task force, Lt Col Gareth Bex, also paid tribute to him.

"Corporal James Oakland was an excellent soldier, a natural leader and extremely well thought of by all ranks," he said.

"He was an inspiring character and his loss will be felt keenly across our close-knit community.

"When a battle casualty replacement was needed two months ago, his professionalism made him the natural choice to deploy and he excelled in his operational duties."

Cpl Oakland was part of Weapons Intelligence Specialist Company and the unit's commander, Maj Andy Lewis, described him as one of its "brightest stars".

"He was a central part of company life and he worked hard and played harder; his keen wit brightened many a dark moment," he added.

Known as "Jim" to his friends, Cpl Oakland had previously served on operations in Kosovo and Beirut.

He was said to be very close to his family - his parents Steve and Christine, long-term girlfriend Lauren Bowyer and brother, Daniel, who is in his final term at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.

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