Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Soldier killed in Afghanistan named as Sapper Watson

Sapper David Watson
Sapper Watson died from wounds from an explosion

A British bomb disposal expert who died on New Year's Eve after being caught in an explosion in southern Afghanistan has been named as Sapper David Watson.

The 23-year-old from 33 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers was on his first operational tour when he was fatally wounded by a roadside bomb.

His family said Sapper Watson, who was based at Carver Barracks in Wimbish, Essex, had been "living his dream".

In all, 245 UK service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

Sapper Watson, who grew up in Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne, died of wounds sustained in the explosion close to Patrol Base Blenheim in the Sangin area of Helmand province.

In a statement, his family said: "He always managed to achieve above and beyond the goals that he set for himself, often going that extra mile to achieve beyond the bounds of what was expected of him.

Sapper Watson was the archetypal gentle giant; strong and silent, the big brother that you never had
Major Tim Gould

"He lived his dream and did what a true soldier is ready to do for his country, a true hero."

Senior officers have paid tribute to Sapper Watson.

Lt Col Gareth Bex, commanding officer of the counter-IED task force, called him "the epitome of a warrior: fearless, ruthlessly determined and a great team player".

"An immensely proud parachute and commando-trained soldier, he was highly respected by his peers; they looked up to him with the deference that individuals of his sheer quality warrant," he said.

And Major Tim Gould, the officer commanding the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, described Sapper Watson as a "man-mountain of a young man".

He was "as strong as an ox and was completely unsurpassed in any challenge of a physical nature", he added.

"Sapper Watson was the archetypal gentle giant; strong and silent, the big brother that you never had.

"He was the one that you wanted by your side no matter what you were doing, be it on a night out in town, the sports pitch or on the battlefield here in Helmand."

Major Richard Hawkins, the officer commanding 49 Field Squadron (explosive ordnance disposal), said: "Sapper Watson's vital work clearing mines and unexploded bombs throughout Helmand province has undoubtedly saved the lives of countless soldiers and local civilians."

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The Independent Britain's final casualty of Afghan war in 2009 is named - 31 hrs ago
The Sun Tributes paid to bomb expert - 37 hrs ago
Ananova Blast victim 'epitome of a warrior' - 40 hrs ago
Telegraph Army bomb disposal expert was the 'epitome of a warrior' - 42 hrs ago
ITN Soldier killed in new year blast named - 42 hrs ago

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