The men – five of them aged between 19 and 21 – died when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device (IED).
Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was killed alongside Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, Private Anthony Frampton, 20, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, Private Daniel Wade, 20, and Private Daniel Wilford, 21, all of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.
The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack, telling the BBC they were “very proud of it”.
The soldiers, who had only been in Afghanistan for a few weeks, were hit by the blast about 25 miles north of the capital of Helmand Province, Lashkar Gah, at 6:30pm local time (2pm UK time) on Tuesday.
The force of the explosion turned the Warrior upside down and blew off its gun turret. Ammunition on board the vehicle ignited, causing a fierce fire that burned for many hours and severely hampered rescuers.
In a moving tribute to his soldiers Lieutenant Colonel Zac Stenning, commanding officer of 3 Yorks, said: “Six of our brothers have fallen. It has been a sad day.”
The mother of Pte Frampton, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, broke down in tears as she described her devastation at losing her son.
Margaret Charlesworth, 47, said: “He was a legend to us and all who knew him. We are heartbroken.” Pte Frampton sought to allay his family’s fears in a series of phone calls and Facebook messages after he deployed to Afghanistan on Valentine’s Day.
On the day he set off from the 3 Yorks barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire, he wrote: “I’ll be fine mum trust me xxxx.”
Lt Col Stenning said Pte Frampton was a “thoroughly likeable” young man and “the life and soul” of his platoon.
Pte Wade was about to become a father with his fiancée Emma Hickman, 19, who is due to give birth in June. Speaking outside their home in Warrington, Cheshire, his uncle Dave Hamilton said: “Words cannot describe how utterly devastated we all feel at such a difficult time but we also cannot put into words how immensely proud of Daniel we all feel, not just as a soldier but as a man.”
Lt Col Stenning said Pte Wade only joined 3 Yorks recently but had already made a “real mark” on the battalion.
Pte Kershaw, the youngest of the men killed on Tuesday, deployed to Afghanistan last month despite having second thoughts after one of his closest friends, Rifleman Sheldon Steel, 20, was killed in Helmand last November.
His father Brian Kershaw, 45, said: “We personally didn’t want him to go but that’s what he wanted to do.
“He knew there were dangers, he knew the risks. I don’t think he fully understood until he lost one of his best mates a few months ago, Sheldon, who was one of the last ones killed.”
Pte Kershaw, from Bradford, was described by his commanding officer as a “true Yorkshire warrior” who had been marked out as a “star of the future”.
Cpl Hartley’s stepfather, Mark Taylor, 44, said the family was “devastated” by their “massive, massive loss”. Lt Col Stenning said Cpl Hartley, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who would have turned 21 on Saturday, had risen swiftly through the ranks and predicted that the “natural leader” would have become a Regimental Sergeant Major.
Sgt Coupe married three years ago and lived with his wife and child close to the home where he grew up in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Lt Col Stenning said the experienced non-commissioned officer was “proud to be a Lancashire soldier in a Yorkshire battalion”, adding: “He was, quite simply, the best.”
Pte Wilford, from Huddersfield, a close friend of Pte Frampton, was described by his commanding officer as the “archetypal” Yorkshire infantry soldier, “quiet, unassuming but with bags of character”.
His aunt Susan Clarke, 51, said: “He’s done us all proud. He’s a hero in our eyes.”
The Ministry of Defence has not formally confirmed the deaths. It is understood this process could take several days because experts are having to use DNA techniques to identify the bodies.