A British soldier killed in a grenade blast while on patrol in Afghanistan has been named by the Ministry of Defence as Lance Corporal James Ashworth from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
L/Cpl Ashworth was on patrol to disrupt insurgent activity in the north of Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand Province when he was caught in the blast from an enemy grenade on Wednesday. He died despite receiving immediate medical treatment.
The family of the 23-year-old from Kettering, Northamptonshire, said: "We are devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and boyfriend.
"He meant the world to everyone and has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts. We ask that we are given time to grieve and we sincerely thank everyone for their condolences."
L/Cpl Ashworth's father Duane served as a Grenadier Guard and his brother Coran, 21, is currently serving with the Army in Northern Ireland.
He lived with his mother Kerryann and his girlfriend Emily in Kettering, and also leaves sisters Lauren and Paige, brother Karl and four-year-old niece Darcy.
Captain Mike Dobbin, Commander of Reconnaissance Platoon, Nijmegen Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said L/Cpl Ashworth was killed trying to protect his colleagues.
He said: "L/Cpl Ashworth was killed while fighting his way through compounds, leading his fireteam from the front, whilst trying to protect his men and he showed extraordinary courage to close on a determined enemy.
"His professionalism under pressure and ability to remain calm in what was a chaotic situation is testament to his character.
"L/Cpl Ashworth was a pleasure to command and I will sorely miss his calming influence on the battlefield. Softly spoken, he stepped up to every task thrown in his direction.
"As the section second in command in the ISAF/Afghan National Army partnered section, L/Cpl Ashworth regularly commanded the section while the section commander worked with the Afghan Army. This he did with absolute professionalism and an ability that surpassed his rank."
He said the platoon had lost a "strong commander, outstanding soldier and dear friend".
L/Cpl Ashworth joined the Army at the age of 17 and completed a stint of ceremonial duty in London after joining Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards. He spent three years with the Guards' Parachute Platoon, part of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, deploying in Afghanistan with them.
He returned to the Grenadiers, serving in Canada with The Queen's Company before moving to the Reconnaissance Platoon. He played for his battalion's football team, most recently during a French military tour, as well as a local team when at home.
L/Cpl Ashworth had recently been promoted to the role of non commissioned officer.
Lieutenant Colonel James Bowder, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said: "L/Cpl Ashworth was an outstanding soldier whose loss has moved us all.
"A real self-starter, he excelled in everything that he undertook. Fit, strong and brilliant at his job, he set the bar very high.
"Indeed, such was his calmness under pressure, his charisma, and his selflessness that he made an exemplary junior leader."
He said the regiment would "never forget this quite exceptional man".
Colour Sergeant Andy Austin, Second in Command of Reconnaissance Platoon, Nijmegen Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said: "His great love of the beautiful game was shared by myself and others in the platoon.
"After every match day in the Premier League we would discuss the day's events with great interest, especially the fortunes of his beloved Tottenham Hotspur - these conversations I will miss terribly.
"This was a man destined for great things in the Army and whose potential I watched flourish in the platoon."
Sergeant Vandell McLean, Platoon Sergeant, Reconnaissance Platoon, Nijmegen Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards said: "My sorrow is with his family at this time of great loss. Please take comfort in knowing that L/Cpl Ashworth died protecting me, his mates and the rest of the platoon."
Guardsman Gareth Loftus, Reconnaissance Platoon, Nijmegen Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said: "Selfless, brave, courageous - words like these don't come close to what Ash demonstrated that day.
"He will be missed by all as a commander but most of all a good mate."
L/Cpl Ashworth is the 418th member of UK forces to have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.