British soldier killed in Afghan blast

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A soldier from the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery has been killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said today.

He was killed on a vehicle patrol in Lashkar Gah District, central Helmand Province.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "He was one soldier, who was here for one cause, to help the Afghan people.

"This true hero paid the ultimate sacrifice and his memory will live with us forever. We mourn his loss and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this very sad time".

Next of kin have been informed.

The soldier is the 20th British serviceman to die in Afghanistan this month.

Since the start of operations in 2001, 189 British service personnel have died.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a soldier from 40th Regiment Royal Artillery "The Lowland Gunners", attached to The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland has been killed."

His death comes after the head of the armed forces warned that British troops in Afghanistan faced more tough fighting - and more casualties - in the weeks ahead.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said soldiers taking part in the Operation Panther's Claw offensive had faced an "enormous battle" to break through the Taliban defences.

Mr Patch was a machine-gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

He served in the trenches as a private from June to September 1917.

Born on 17 June 1898, he grew up in Combe Down, near Bath, and left school at the age of 15 to train as a plumber.

He was 16 when war broke out and reached 18 as conscription was being introduced and after six months training he was sent to the frontline.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Mr Patch, saying: "I had the honour of meeting Harry, and I share his family's grief at the passing of a great man.

"I know that the whole nation will unite today to honour the memory, and to take pride in the generation that fought the Great War.

"The noblest of all the generations has left us, but they will never be forgotten.

"We say today with still greater force: 'We will remember them'."