Army vows to fight on as tributes paid to four killed in Afghanistan
SENIOR army officers pledged yesterday to "get on with the job" as tributes were paid to four soldiers killed in one of the bloodiest days for UK forces in Afghanistan.
The men died in three separate incidents in Helmand province on Thursday – taking the death toll since operations began in 2001 to 157. Tributes were paid to the dead soldiers yesterday as their commanding officers pledged to fight on and their fellow soldiers returned to action.
In one incident, Sergeant Ben Ross, 34, from 173 Provost Company, 3rd Regiment, Royal Military Police, and Corporal Kumar Pun, 31, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, were killed by a suicide bomber during a patrol in Gereshk.
Defence Secretary John Hutton said the men "died at the spearhead of operations fundamental to the UK's mission in Afghanistan" and praised their dedication, professionalism and fierce bravery.
In a separate incident, Rifleman Adrian Sheldon, 25, from 2nd Battalion The Rifles, was killed when his Jackal patrol vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device near Sangin.
And Corporal Sean Binnie, 22, from the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, died in a fire-fight with insurgents near Musa Qala.
Major Adam Quantrell, Sgt Ross's commanding officer in 173 Provost Company, said his death came as a "huge shock". He added: "The hole that has been left by him appears at the moment to be overwhelming.
"I know if Ben were still here he would just look at me, tell me to fill the hole and get on with the job. He was a giant among men and I am blessed for having him under command and the company is blessed for having served with him."
Sgt Ross, from Bangor, North Wales, joined the army in 1996 and leaves his wife Sheena, who is serving with the Royal Military Police.
Actress Joanna Lumley, who is leading a high-profile campaign over Gurkha residence rights, said Cpl Kumar's death showed that the Gurkhas were giving up their lives for Britain and deserved the right to settle in the UK.
"It just goes to show the Gurkhas are at the centre of the army and are willing to fight for the British and give up their lives for this country," she said.
Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, commanding officer of 2 Rifles Battle Group North, said Rifleman Sheldon was "sorely missed".
The Ministry of Defence said Rifleman Sheldon, of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottingham, was "a Mansfield lad". His parents, Mark and Diane, and his younger sister, Amy, added: "Adrian was our son, best mate, our hero. The light of our lives has gone out, never to be replaced."
And Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, commanding officer of 3 Scots, said Cpl Binnie "will be missed by us all but will not be forgotten".
"His loss will further serve to stiffen our resolve to see our task through this summer and we will not fail him," he said.
Cpl Binnie's wife, Amanda, 21, spoke of her devastation at losing her "hero".
Addressing her late husband, she said: "You have been so strong and brave. Our married life has been a short six months and I'm speaking for both of us in saying it was the best six months ever.
"I know you have died a happy married man in doing what you loved. We're so proud of you. God bless you, babe."
Senior officers praised his bravery, enthusiasm and "strong determined streak".
Meanwhile, Major Phil Packer, a soldier injured in a rocket attack in Iraq, said he had a "bitter-sweet" feeling as he crossed the finishing line of the London Marathon two weeks after it began.
The 36-year-old Royal Military Police officer, who lost the use of his legs during an attack in Basra last February and walked the course on crutches, said: "There were others who are coming back injured and my thoughts are really with their families at the moment."
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