Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 18:26 UK

'Selfless' soldier 200th to die

Pte Richard Hunt
Pte Richard Hunt was trained to drive Warrior vehicles and as a sniper

Friends of the 200th British soldier to die in the conflict in Afghanistan say they were grateful they and his family were at his bedside as he passed away.

They described 21-year-old Pte Richard Hunt, of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, as an "amazing character".

Pembrokeshire-born Pte Hunt, who grew up in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, died in a Birmingham hospital on Saturday.

His vehicle patrol had been hit by an explosion in Helmand Province two days earlier.

His parents Hazel and Phillip Hunt said he was "selfless to the end" and his bravado masked a natural shyness.

I would like to hope that, in the state that he was when he came back, there was a part of him that knew that we were there and by his side and holding his hand, and all feeling what we were feeling for him
Jonathan Cholakian, friend

His three friends, James Cunningham, Jonathan Cholakian and Hywel Matthews, were among those with him at the Royal College of Defence Medicine, Selly Oak, Birmingham, as he succumbed to his injuries.

Mr Cunningham said: "He wasn't alone in some horrible bed in Afghanistan. He didn't have to die alone.

"I would like to hope that, in the state that he was when he came back, there was a part of him that knew that we were there and by his side and holding his hand, and all feeling what we were feeling for him."

Mr Cholakian said: "He was a person like nobody else that you've ever met before. He was just an amazing character - strong, determined, funny."

He had been part of a vehicle patrol from A Company the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh when it was hit by an improvised explosive device near Musa Qa'la.

Born in Haverfordwest, Pte Hunt moved to Abergavenny where he lived until joining the army in October 2007.

He attended King Henry VIII Comprehensive School and Usk College before starting his training at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick, where he was awarded the physical training prize.

After completing his training, Pte Hunt, who was also known as Hunty, was posted to 2 Platoon in A Company, 2 Royal Welsh in April 2008.

"He loved being a soldier...he was so good at it, like he was so good at everything else."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said he was quickly identified as a "bright, enthusiastic soldier capable of achieving a great deal".

His parents said he "proved to us to be a loving son, brother and uncle at all times".

"He chose his battles with great thought. His bravado, ironically, masked his natural shyness. In our hearts he will be eternally missed and never replaced," they said.

"His may have been the 200th death, whilst we have lost our son and brother, our thoughts are also with other injured and bereaved service personnel and their families, at what we know to be one of the most difficult times a family can face."

'Difficult time'

Pte Hunt attended King Henry VII School in Abergavenny. Teacher Gwenda Binns said he remembered him as "always with a smile and happy".

She said: "As a school, clearly, we send our deepest sympathy to his parents and his friends at a very difficult time.

"You read about in the newspaper you see it on the TV but when it is one of your own, it really does hit home."

Commanding officer 2 Royal Welsh, Lt Col Mark Wheeler, said that although Pte Hunt was quiet by nature, "he clearly had a passion for soldiering".

"He was enthusiastic and dedicated in all that he pursued and coupled with his natural ability, particularly his robust physical strength, a bright future lay ahead," he said.

His company commander, Major Huw Jones said: "It was typical of him to volunteer to drive a Warrior when the need arose.

"Despite the danger he threw himself at the task with the boundless enthusiasm and selfless commitment which was his hallmark - he set an example for us all."

His Platoon commander, Lt Tom Richards said Pte Hunt was "dependable, loyal and wise beyond his years".

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