Six British soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan during a bloody period of fighting were named today.
Corporal Jonathan Horne, Rifleman William Aldridge, Rifleman James Backhouse, Rifleman Joseph Murphy and Rifleman Daniel Simpson, from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles were killed near Sangin, Helmand province, while Corporal Lee Scott, 26, from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, died in an explosion near Nad-e-Ali.
Rifleman Murphy, from Castle Bromwich, West Midlands, Rifleman Aldridge, from Bromyard, Herefordshire, and Rifleman Backhouse, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, were aged just 18.
Several members of the group killed near Sangin died in a second explosion while helping comrades injured in a previous blast on Friday.
Rifleman Murphy was attempting to carry Rifleman Simpson, 20, from Croydon, south London, to safety after he was wounded in the first explosion.
Corporal Horne, 28, from Walsall, and Rifleman Aldridge were killed trying to help casualties from the first explosion. Rifleman Backhouse was trying to clear a route for his comrades when he died in a blast.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding officer of the 2 Riffles Battle Group, said it had been a "grim day" but he added: "They lived and fought alongside us and tonight our lives are much worse for them not being here. But we can celebrate what they were and what they achieved. We are so very proud of them."
Rifleman William Aldridge, who signed up at 17, was "fiercely proud" of being one of the very youngest British soldiers in Helmand, his comrades said.
His mother, Lucy, described him as the "perfect" son.
A family statement added: "The family can't pay William or his comrades who died with him a big enough tribute.
"He achieved his dreams by becoming a rifleman and was very aware of the sacrifice he may have to make. He will leave a huge void in our lives and always remain the perfect son."
Lt Col Thomson said he was being earmarked for more responsibility after impressing in Afghanistan.
He added: "It was clear from very early on that he was a natural field soldier who relished the challenge of preparing for the intensity and complexity of operations in Afghanistan.
"He has stood tall in Sangin - a selfless, capable, thinking rifleman."
Major Alistair Field, officer commanding C Company 2 Rifles, told how Rifleman Aldridge was comforting him after the pair were injured in the first blast.
He added: "There is no doubt in my mind that Rifleman Aldridge could have gone all the way. We were injured together in the first explosion.
"We were both injured and in shock together but he comforted me with his patience and kind words. Sadly his life was snatched by another explosion on the way back to the FOB. Another new talent whose potential will tragically never be known."
Captain Edward Poynter, operations officer with C Company 2 Rifles, added: "Rifleman Aldridge was a key part of a very close knit and battle hardened platoon.
"He spent the bulk of his time in Afghanistan living in, and operating from, a small patrol base in Sangin. With virtually no amenities, luxuries or creature comforts to hand, he thrived on the challenge. "
His fellow riflemen described him as "Big Ginge".
Comrades said Cpl Horne, known as Jay, would be remembered as a "hero".
The soldier, who previously served with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets, had also been on operations in Iraq - where he was wounded in action - and Kosovo.
He leaves his wife Rachel, daughters Frankie and Jessica, as well as his parents and three brothers.
Mrs Horne said: "A sad farewell to my wonderful husband who was a devoted father, husband and a loving son.
"We will miss you more than words could ever describe.
"You were the most caring, thoughtful, funniest, loving and generous person I have ever known.
"You were so brave and we are all so proud of what you have done."
Described by Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, Commanding Officer 2 RIFLES Battle Group, as a popular "rising star", Cpl Horne was "tough, compassionate and full of infectious mirth", he added.
Major Alistair Field, Officer Commanding C Company 2 RIFLES, paid tribute to Cpl Horne's efforts to help those injured shortly before the second blast killed him.
He said: "Highly competent, professional and caring, but tough with a wicked Brummie sense of humour. Corporal Horne did not let me down; he was everything that a Company Commander would have wished for.
"My lasting memory is seeing him in action helping the wounded, calmly controlling the situation until tragically his young life was ended by the evil insurgents."
Captain Edward Poynter, Operations Officer C Company 2 RIFLES, said: "He was smart, tough, exceptionally fit and he always led by example.
"Unsurprisingly, when his Company Commander, Platoon Commander, fellow JNCOs and Riflemen were lying killed and injured after an explosion, he was one of the first on the scene providing first aid and organising their extraction to safety.
"Corporal Horne was killed by a secondary explosive device whilst attempting to save the lives of those he lived and fought with. He will be remembered always as a hero, a friend and a true Rifleman."
Serjeant Jamie Moncho, 9 Platoon Serjeant, added: "As a Section Commander he was dependable and absolutely unflappable. If I needed a man for a task; I could rely on him. No question.
"At the time of his death he was leading his men in a casualty extraction, putting his men first, as always. It was utterly typical of the man."
Rifleman Murphy, a football enthusiast and Aston Villa fan, was a "really bright lad" and a star in the waiting, his colleagues said.
His parents, Brian and Jill, said: "Joe died doing the job he loved whilst serving his country. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his comrades in Afghanistan."
Captain Poynter said: "Rifleman Murphy was carrying his close friend and battle-buddy, Rifleman Simpson, to safety after he had been wounded in the first explosion when a second device initiated and killed them both instantly.
"Rifleman Murphy gave his life while trying to save that of his fellow rifleman. The thoughts and prayers of all in C Company are with him and his family. Rifleman Murphy, we will never forget your smile."
Lt Col Thomson said Rifleman Murphy was marked out for greatness.
He said: "Out here, he was in his element, helping to bring security to Sangin and its people. He knew right was on his side and his commitment was exemplary.
"He loved his football and was itching for the new season. A driven young man, he had so much going for him and his loss has hit us all hard. But our first instinct is to pray that his family will find the strength and courage to face the dreadfulness of the coming days."
Major Field, officer commanding C Company 2 RIFLES, said he was extremely proud of "all he had achieved".
He added: "Smartness was not his thing - the dust, dirt and austerity under which we lived was right up his street.
"He also had an infectious sense of humour which he tried on with me during my first interview with him. I am extremely proud of all he had achieved."
Serjeant Jamie Monchos revealed Rifleman Murphy was a keen artist.
He said: "He had many talents and often combined his talent for drawing with his love of Aston Villa Football Club. He was often sent to remove his 'artwork' from the sentry positions.
"With an eye on the future, he wanted to complete the demanding Rifles Sniper Cadre. Joe was close friends with Rifleman Danny Simpson whom he was helping to extract to the safety of the FOB during their last minutes together. He spoke constantly of his parents and his older brother, whom he missed and loved dearly."
Rifleman Backhouse's "sense of service was humbling", troops added.
He is mourned by his parents, Andrew and Sharon, and three brothers, Gareth, Dean and Ryan.
Lt Col Thomson described him as a "natural soldier" on his first tour.
"There was never a murmur of complaint and he was the sort who simply got on," he said.
"He was a determined, rigorous and thoughtful young man who saw the lighter side of life.
"He had lungs big enough for the rest of his platoon. We were jealous.
"He was utterly selfless and always the first man in his company to welcome new riflemen. He is sorely missed and his family are front and centre of our prayers at this unimaginably difficult time."
Major Field added: "He was quickly accepted by his fellow Riflemen as one of the lads and as someone who could be relied on.
"This tour had brought out the best in Rifleman Backhouse. His sense of service was humbling."
Captain Poynter told how the youngster had been desperately disappointed to miss out on an operational tour to Kosovo because he was too young.
He added: "Characteristically, he quickly and optimistically reset his sights on the upcoming tour to Afghanistan.
"He attacked the pre-deployment training with charisma, vigour and a keenness that was clearly visible to all."
Meanwhile, the world will be a "quieter place" without Rifleman Simpson, a boxing enthusiast whose son, Alfie, is eight months old, family members said. He had previously served in Kosovo.
A statement on behalf of his mother Debrah, father Robert and two brothers, Lee and Jimmy, said: "Daniel Simpson was a larger than life character, sometimes a bit of a handful and always full of surprises.
"A strong team player who was fiercely loyal to his friends and could be relied on to be there whenever he was needed.
"Danny as he is known to his family leaves behind a son Alfie, a younger brother Lee, an older Brother Jimmy and parents Debbie and Robert Simpson. The world will be a quieter place without Danny."
Lt Col Thomson described him as "one of my South London geezers".
He added: "Good enough to have flirted with professional football, he was surprisingly fit for a man with such a large capacity for food and drink.
"His first inclination was always to look out for others. He leaves a desperately big hole in our lives but our first thoughts are for his adored parents, his two brothers, Lee and Jimmy and his adored son Alfie, named after his much loved grandfather."
Major Field added: "Rifleman Simpson was my big, hard, 'bouncer-lookalike' rifleman."
Captain Poynter added: "Rifleman Simpson was the epitome of a great rifleman; scruffy, loud and confident to the extreme.
"The most important things in his life were his family, his son Alfie and his grandfather Alfie.
He had played junior football for West Ham United and was quite handy as a junior boxer, it was claimed.
Cpl Scott, 26, was killed in a separate incident on Friday while taking part in Operation Panther's Claw.
Born in Ely, he grew up in King's Lynn, Norfolk.
He married his wife Nikki in February 2008 and had a four-year-old son Kai and eight-month-old daughter Brooke.
Mrs Scott said: "Lee was not only my husband but my best friend, ask anyone who was lucky enough to have met Lee and they'd all tell you the same, he was the most loving, kindest, thoughtful person you could ever meet.
"He was so full of life and permanently had a cheeky grin on his face. I am so proud to be his wife. As well as the army, his family were his life.
"He was the best daddy to Kai and Brooke and he will live on through them. Lee will always be in our thoughts and hearts and greatly missed by his Dad, Mum, Kelly, Dean and Denise.
"This is a devastating loss to the whole family."
Cpl Scott, nicknamed "Scotty", was a "charismatic" soldier and devoted family man, according to comrades.
Major Charlie Burbridge. EGYPT Squadron Leader said he died while leading his section of Viking vehicles from the front.
"He was charismatic, inspirational and hugely popular with everyone in my squadron," he said. "He was an instinctive soldier who had a keen and canny tactical brain.
"Scotty was a central figure in my squadron; fun loving, thoughtful, honest and effective."
Governor Gulab Managal, governor of Helmand Province, spoke of his personal sadness after the deaths,
He said: "On behalf of the people of Helmand I extend to our friends in the United Kingdom our heartfelt condolences for the losses you have suffered this week. Your sorrow is our sorrow.
"We are profoundly grateful for the sacrifices your brave soldiers make for us, because we know that they fight to give us, and our children, a future free of tyranny and fear."
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth: said: "Every serviceman or woman who dies will always be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice. The effect this will have on the troops in Helmand and in the UK will be great; but it is their resolve, determination and unshakeable pride in their colleagues that will drive them forward to continue their work in delivering stability and security in Afghanistan. Their successes will mean our streets at home are safe from the threat from terrorism.
"My thoughts and sympathies, which I am confident are echoed not only by the Armed Forces but country-wide, are with these loved ones and all the families of the fallen."