Page last updated at 19:58 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Corporals killed in vehicle blast

Corporal Dean John (L) and Corporal Graeme Stiff
Cpls Dean John (L) and Graeme Stiff died when their patrol vehicle was hit

The Ministry of Defence has named the two engineer soldiers killed after their vehicle was hit by an explosion in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

Cpl Dean John, 25, from Port Talbot, south Wales, and Cpl Graeme Stiff, 24, from Grimsby, were serving in the Queen's Dragoon Guards.

Cpl John was a married father of three; Cpl Stiff was on his first tour.

Their deaths bring to 152 the number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan since operations began.

Both men had enlisted into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Reme). Cpl John was a vehicle mechanic, while Cpl Stiff was an electronics technician.

The men were travelling in all-terrain armoured Jackal vehicle to the west of Garmsir in Helmand Province when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device at around 4.30pm local time.

The pair were members of the Light Aid Detachment of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDGs), otherwise known as the Welsh Cavalry, at the main British base Camp Bastion in Helmand.

'Our hero'

The Jackal squadron from 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards is involved in patrolling the "Snake's Head" area around the Helmand river.

Cpl John, was born and bred in Neath, was on his second tour to Afghanistan and the fourth tour of his career, having served in Northern Ireland and Iraq.

He leaves three sons, Ethan, Harvey and Dylan, and wife, Wendy. She said: "Dean died doing the job he loved, fighting for his queen and country.

"He was our hero and will live on in our hearts. Dean lived life to the full and was always happy and smiling. He will be greatly missed."

His parents Debbie and David, sister Hayley and brother Simon, who is also serving in the armed forces with the Reme, have said they are devastated by their loss.

A statement from the QDGs described him as the "epitome of a Reme soldier" who "could always be found up to his elbows in the engine compartment of any vehicle that even looked like it needed some work".

It said he was an "avid motocross fan and had an addiction to anything mechanical".

'Great burden'

Cpl Stiff was born in Munster, Germany, and came from a military background, and had accompanied his father across the world on various military postings.

Known as "Stiffy," he was a keen sportsman and had represented both Reme and the QDGs at football.

He leaves behind his girlfriend Lauren. His family said: "Graeme was a loving and loved brother, son and grandson whose life was cruelly brought to an end.

"Like so may on operations he gave his life so that others may live better ones. His mother and father and brother will always remember him for the joy that he brought to everyone's life."

Lieutenant Colonel Alan Richmond, Commanding Officer, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, said: "The loss of 'Stiffy' is a great burden for the regiment and will impact significantly upon the close-knit fitter section within which he was such a pivotal character."

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