A British soldier who was previously awarded the Military Cross for trying to retrieve the body of one his comrades under fire in Afghanistan was named yesterday as the latest fatality in Helmand.
Sergeant Michael Lockett, from the 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, died while on duty in the Gereshk district of Helmand Province on Monday. Nearing the end of his third tour of Afghanistan, he was on foot patrol investigating the discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device when it detonated. His death took the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since the start of operations to 217.
Last month, another soldier from the Mercians, Private Jason Williams, 23, lost his life while trying to recover the body of an Afghan soldier at Zumbalay in the Upper Gereshk Valley.
In 2007, Sgt Lockett was awarded a Military Cross for bravery while leading his platoon in a battle to save soldiers in Garmsir, southern Helmand.
The soldiers were attempting to recover the body of Pte Johan Botha, a South African on his first overseas tour since joining the Mercians, when a firefight against the Taliban broke out. Sgt Craig Brelsford died and was awarded a posthumous Military Cross. Lieutenant (now Captain) Simon Cupples, who led efforts to retrieve the body, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, the second highest bravery medal.
After receiving the award, Sgt Lockett said: "There were so many emotions. It was horrible. But you have to show the lads you are in control, they're looking to you for inspiration. It gets to the point that you've got guys out there and you're not leaving them."
He had also spoken of his hopes that new Osprey body armour could help save lives in future.
Garmsir became a totemic location in the conflict, with the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai deeply embarrassed by its loss to the Taliban.
A lack of British manpower meant that although the area was retaken more than once from the Taliban, it could not be held because of a shortage of troops on the ground. It was eventually retaken by 2,000 US troops in 2007.
Sgt Lockett, from Monifieth in Angus, joined the 1st Battalion, the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, in Tidworth in 1996, and had served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland as well as Afghanistan.
Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Banton, commanding officer of Sgt Lockett's regiment, described him as one the "brightest and its best".
"Locky was a natural leader in whatever situation he found himself and was admired for his commitment and selfless behaviour," he said.
"In every aspect of his military bearing he set an example that others would wish to match: fit, smart, intelligent, compassionate and brave."
Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, also paid tribute to Sgt Lockett, adding he was "saddened" by the news. "His gallantry is not only demonstrated by the fact he held the Military Cross for previous brave actions, but also by the manner in which he died, investigating the find of an improvised explosive device in an effort to save the lives of others."
He leaves three children, Connor, Chloe and Courtney, as well as his girlfriend, Belinda. His parents, Mal and April, described him as "everything that we could ever have wanted in a son, and a devoted father". They said: "His passing has left a huge void in all our lives that can never be filled."
An MoD spokesman said: "Locky, as he was known to his friends, will always be remembered for his infectious laugh and prominence as a man.
"His leadership style was the exact mix of compassion and steel which garnered the respect of both those he led and those he served."