Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

UK soldier killed in Helmand named as Robert Hayes

Pte Robert Hayes
Pte Robert Hayes was a keen boxer and rugby player

The first British soldier killed in Afghanistan this year has been named as Pte Robert Hayes of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment.

The 19-year-old died in an explosion while on foot patrol in the Nad-e-Ali area of Helmand province on Sunday.

His death brings the total number of UK personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 246.

Last year was the bloodiest for UK forces since the Falklands War in 1982, with the final death toll reaching 108.

In a statement, the parents of Pte Hayes - who came from the English village of Burwell, in Cambridgeshire - asked for their "brave" son's memory to be honoured.

They said they were still coming to terms with their loss.

"However, we are strengthened by the thought that he was with his comrades, doing the job he so dearly loved, when his life was taken," they said.

They said he had been passionate about rugby and boxing and had played for Newmarket Rugby Club and won the battalion boxing championship at welterweight on his first attempt.

'Intense fighting'

"Robbie loved all aspects of life, in his home village... Among his peers he enjoyed great popularity but found particular happiness with his girlfriend, Jema," they added.

Most recent UK fatalities

Total deaths 2011: 32

Updated: Dec 18 2011

His girlfriend also paid tribute to him with a message left on the social networking site Facebook, writing that she was "honoured" to have known and loved him.

Pte Hayes was a rifleman with 6 Platoon, C (Essex) Company.

His senior officers said Pte Hayes had made a "real difference" despite having been in the Army for only a year.

His commanding officer, Lt Col James Woodham, said Pte Hayes had been a "trusted member of the team" whose "energy for life was contagious" and who would be remembered for his bravery and sense of humour.

He said: "He died whilst on patrol in an area that has seen some of the most intense fighting with the insurgents that seek to undermine the Afghan government.

"In the past two months, he and his platoon have given their all to deliver a secure environment for the people of Nad-e-Ali in what are some of the most demanding of conditions."

Maj Christopher Davies, the commanding officer for C (Essex) Company, said Pte Hayes was a "genuinely decent man" who "sacrificed his life doing something he truly believed in".

His friend Pte Daniel Greenland also paid tribute and said he had "never met someone as motivated and brave" and that Pte Hayes would never be forgotten.

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Telegraph Girlfriend writes final letter to British soldier killed in Afghanistan - 5 hrs ago
Sky News Fallen Soldier's Army Ambitions - 15 hrs ago
The Independent Parents' tribute to 'brave' teenage soldier - 25 hrs ago
ITN Tributes paid to first Afghan casualty of 2010 - 25 hrs ago

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