Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Tributes to 'brave' UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Cpl Lee Brownson and Rifleman Luke Farmer
Cpl Brownson (L) was hailed "a hero" while Rifleman Farmer (R) was "brave"

Tributes have been paid to the bravery of two British soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Rifles who were killed while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.

Cpl Lee Brownson, 30, originally from Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, was an "all-action hero", company commander Maj Tim Harris said.

And Rifleman Luke Farmer, 19, from Pontefract, West Yorkshire, "saved many lives" searching for explosive devices.

The men died in an explosion near Sangin in Helmand province on Friday.

Their deaths take the number of UK personnel killed since 2001, when operations began in Afghanistan, to 249.

'Hit by shrapnel'

Maj Harris said Cpl Brownson, who was due to become a father for the third time, was "truly phenomenal" and "outstandingly brave".

"He was loved by his men; they all wanted to be just like him, their hero.

"If there was a fight to be had, he was always at the front," he said.

It is certain that he saved many lives - British and Afghan - through his sheer resilience and bravery
Lt Palmer Winstanley pays tribute to Rifleman Luke Farmer

"On one occasion, like the all-action hero he was, he was hit by a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder, but refused medical treatment, dealing with it in the morning once the enemy had gone."

L/Cpl Johnny Cassell said the 30-year-old "was known as a bit of a 'Del Boy' in the battalion", referring to the character played by David Jason in TV comedy Only Fools and Horses.

He "never failed to make me laugh with stories of his latest money-making schemes", L/Cpl Cassell added.

Rifleman Farmer was "mature beyond his years", his platoon commander, Lt Palmer Winstanley, said.

"He had a real depth of character," he added. "He was confident, strong and kind. He was a quiet man with a quick wit."

'Resilience and bravery'

Lt Winstanley said the 19-year-old had "stepped up to the mark as our lead man, responsible for finding improvised explosive devices with a metal detector".

"This is an incredible undertaking for anyone, and it is certain that he saved many lives - British and Afghan - through his sheer resilience and bravery."

His father, Mark, told of being "the proudest dad" at his passing out parade.

"I felt 20ft tall the day Luke received the award for fittest soldier within his intake.

"He could have one day gone to the Olympics as a 100m sprinter - he was that fast."

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