Five British servicemen killed when the Lynx helicopter they were travelling in crashed in southern Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.
Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner, Corporal James Walters, all of the Army Air Corps (AAC) lost their lives together with Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan of the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps.
Their aircraft went down in Kandahar province during a routine flight on Saturday morning.
The MoD has denied claims by the Taliban that insurgents shot the helicopter down, with initial investigations indicating a “tragic accident” rather than enemy action.
Group Captain Richard Maddison, station commander at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, said: “I am extremely saddened to hear of the loss of Captain Thomas Clarke, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters, all who served at Royal Air Force Odiham.
“My deepest sympathies are with their families and friends at this most difficult time, and also with the family of Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, who was not from Royal Air Force Odiham but who was also on the Lynx aircraft.”
He added: “As with all losses of personnel in Afghanistan, we mourn the loss of our most capable and dedicated personnel, who served without complaint and in full understanding of the risks associated with their roles.”
Capt Clarke, 30, from Cowbridge in Wales, was described as a “rising star” in the AAC and a man who was “full of life and immensely committed to his soldiers and friends”.
His family said: “Tom brought so much happiness and love to everyone he knew with his sparkling blue eyes and cheeky smile.
“He had an absolute passion for life and was the best part of us; we are all poorer today without him.”
Flt Lt Chauhan was described as “charming, funny and sharp as a tack” by his commanding officer.
He added: “He was a hugely influential and well-respected officer whose enthusiasm and professionalism permeated every aspect of his work.”
WO Faulkner’s family paid tribute, saying: “Spen was a loving husband to Cally and devoted father to Natasha and Jack, and will be greatly missed. A huge gap has been left in our hearts forever. He has been tragically taken away while serving his country, a job he loved. God rest his soul”.
Cpl Walters was a highly respected junior non-commissioned officer, known as “Bungle”. He was described as “a consummate professional and an example to all who served with him”.
Lance Cpl Thomas’s commanding officer said: “This tragic incident has taken a young, enthusiastic and highly capable Intelligence Corps soldier away from us and his loss is deeply felt by all members of the unit and the Intelligence Corps as a whole. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, particularly his parents, at this most difficult time”.
His family added: “Oliver was a truly amazing person, living his life to the full, while fulfilling some of his many dreams and adventures. He was very much loved and will be greatly missed by his grieving family and friends.”