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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
'Heart and soul' soldier killed
Lance Corporal Ryan Francis
L/Cpl Ryan Francis was on his third tour of Iraq
A Royal Welsh soldier killed in Iraq has been remembered as a "Llanelli man through and through" who was "the heart and soul of his platoon".

L/Cpl Ryan Francis, aged 23, of 2nd battalion The Royal Welsh and known as Franky, died in a roadside bomb attack in Basra on Saturday.

His commanding officer paid tribute to the Carmarthenshire soldier as "professional, brave and committed."

He said everyone's thoughts were with his parents and girlfriend Joanne.

Lt Col James Swift said L/Cpl Francis was the driver of a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle on his third tour of Iraq, and a member of the battle group's elite "recce" platoon.

He had a tattoo on is arm 'I shall fear no man but God' and that summed up the way he lived his life
L/Cpl Steven Walters, friend

He was killed instantly during an operation to defeat insurgents attacking British and Iraqi security forces.

The Ministry of Defence has also announced that a second British soldier, seriously injured during the same heavy fighting in Basra died from his wounds.

Col Swift said of L/Cpl Francis: "He had a fantastic sense of humour and was always at the centre of fun.

"There is no doubt that the recce platoon will be a quieter place without him. He was genuine, honest, frank but always witty, and he was much liked and respected by all."

L/Cpl Francis had devoted his life to serving his country and helping his mates, said Col Swift, adding: "There can be no greater testament to a man."

Burned car at scene of fighting in Basra
Two soldiers have now died following the heavy fighting in Basra

Company commander Maj Mark Williams remembered the ardent Liverpool FC fan as an "utterly genuine man" with a strong and wicked sense of humour.

He said: "Franky would always tell you what he felt in a way that would make you smile. He could always be relied upon to pick up morale when his platoon was at its lowest.

"He was a quiet young man who was transformed in the platoon environment. Often the life and soul of the party, he was a generous and warm-hearted individual."

According to Cpt Gareth Evans, his platoon commander, he was irreplaceable.

'Tremendously friendly'

"Franky he ever missed an opportunity to crack a joke, make us laugh and lift our spirits: we could really use him now," he said.

"A tremendously friendly soldier, Franky was comfortable talking to anybody, regardless of rank. He was able to communicate the feelings of our platoon, couched in a humour that could not fail to amuse."

Many tributes have also been paid by fellow soldiers, including L/Cpl Spencer Beynon who said his colleagues had friends in abundance in Llanelli.

He described him as a "legend in his own right" and said he was honoured to have been regarded as his friend.

L/Cpl Steven Walters said he had been a great friend, and "like a brother" to him.

He added: "He was always one of the boys, always laughing and joking, lifting people's spirits without a care in the world.

"He had a tattoo on his arm reading "I shall fear no man but God" and that summed up the way he lived his life. I will miss him hugely."

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