Page last updated at 21:43 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

MoD names latest Helmand casualty

Lance Corporal Darren Hicks
L/Cpl Hicks had a three-year-old son and a 10-month old daughter

A British soldier killed in an explosion in Afghanistan has been named by the Ministry of Defence.

Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, 29, from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, died while on patrol in the Babaji district of Helmand province on Thursday.

In a statement, his commanding officer said the father-of-two, from Mousehole in Cornwall, was "one of the finest Lance Corporals currently serving".

His widow Katie said "he was taken doing the job he loved".

L/Cpl Hicks' death brought the total number of British personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 257.

'Enormous gap'

Lt Col Toby Gray, commanding officer of L/Cpl Hicks' battalion, said he was "at the top of the list to attend the promotion course that would propel him to the next rank of lance sergeant".

"He led his men like a lance sergeant and they responded to his leadership as if he were a lance sergeant; they respected and loved him in equal measure," Lt Col Gray said.

"He was a keen rugby player, a son of Cornwall, and the sun rarely set on his smile; ready always to lend a hand or offer a gentle word of support to those senior as well as junior to himself.

"The gap in our ranks left by his untimely death is enormous."

He was a loving husband and father; he was my life and my everything
L/Cpl Hicks' widow Katie

L/Cpl Hicks had a three-year-old son, Henry, and 10-month-old baby daughter, Daisy.

His widow said in a statement: "I am devastated by the loss of Darren.

"He was a loving husband and father; he was my life and my everything."

Major operation

L/Cpl Hicks joined the Army in 1999 and served in Northern Ireland and Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan for the first time in October 2007.

He returned to Helmand province for a second tour in October last year.

Maj Toby Till, commanding officer of Number One Company, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, said L/Cpl Hicks had been helping to construct a new check point in a nearby village in the week before his death.

"I then spoke with Darren before he went on what was to be his last patrol," Maj Hill said. "He was looking after those around him and ensuring that they had everything they needed."

An MoD spokesman said L/Cpl Hicks' death was not related to a major Nato-led offensive against the Taliban - codenamed Operation Moshtarak - which is due to get under way in Helmand.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "I was extremely saddened to hear of the death of Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, who I am told was a very talented soldier of considerable ability which was proven on operations."

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