Tributes paid to British servicemen killed in Afghanistan


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The Independent Online

The families of two British servicemen killed on duty in Afghanistan have paid tribute to them.

Father-of-four Lance Corporal Matthew David Smith, 26, from the Corps of Royal Engineers, died on Friday after being shot while trying to build a checkpoint in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province.

His mother Caroline Smith described him as a “hero”.

The father of Lieutenant Andrew Robert Chesterman of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, who was shot by enemy forces on Thursday while on patrol in the same district, said his family had lost “a fine young man”.

Paul Chesterman added the serviceman's relatives were “immensely proud” of him.

The 26-year-old, from Bristol, was commanding a vehicle patrol when the lead vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

The Ministry of Defence said that as Lt Chesterman moved forward to take control of the situation, insurgents opened fire and he was shot. He was taken to hospital in Camp Bastion but could not be saved.

The rifleman, who was a platoon commander with C Company, was deployed to Afghanistan on April 7 and leaves behind his father and sisters Anna and Olivia.

He was described as an “outstanding leader” by comrades.

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Maconochie, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, said: “Professional excellence, self-discipline, integrity and loyalty are characteristics that immediately spring to mind when I think about Andrew.”

Captain Rob Fellows, second-in-command of C Company, added: “Andy was utterly committed to his men and not afraid to stand up for them to anyone he felt he needed to, regardless of rank.

“His selflessness was typified by the way he died moving forward to support his men following an IED (improvised explosive device) strike.”

Lieutenant James Cowen, intelligence officer with C Company, said: “He was diligent and caring while also ferociously protective when it came to the men under his command, something I know they are extremely grateful for.

“Among his many good traits, this is the one I admire the most, as there is nothing more honourable than absolute loyalty to the men you fight alongside.”

L/Cpl Smith was part of a troop tasked to build a new checkpoint next the Nahr-e-Bughra Canal when he was hit by small arms fire. Despite efforts to save him he died from his wounds.

The soldier, who had four children - Lainie, Ella, Tilli and Jai - aged between one and seven, and a fiancee, Laura, was said to devoted to his family and “talked about them endlessly”.

The keen footballer, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Aldershot, was described by his comrades as a “big character” who gave himself the nickname Smudge.

They spoke about his adoration for his family and said he would always be counting down to his leave when he would get to see them.

Corporal Matt Copping, 6 Troop section commander, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 26 Engineer Regiment, said: “With L/Cpl Smith as my second in command my job was easy. Professional at all times, he was always smart as a carrot and twice as crunchy.

“He loved his family with all his heart and couldn't wait for his rest and recuperation leave, giving me a daily countdown.

“L/Cpl Smith's family have lost a major part of their life and my thoughts are constantly with them. I was proud to have known and worked with Smudge; it was a privilege. Not only have I lost a great colleague, but a great mate.”

Lance Corporal Kev Engstrom, section second in command, 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, added: “A very big character within the troop, he easily lifted morale with his sense of humour. He was someone you always wanted to be around - during tasks, downtime and away from work.”

Staff Sergeant Paddy McDermott said: “L/Cpl Smith's professionalism was unquestionable and his dedication to his work outstanding.

“The only thing he put in front of work was his family and friends. From the moment he woke up in the morning to the second when he closed his eyes at night he was happy about life.”

Major Chris Ankers, officer commanding of 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron, described the soldier as a true leader of men.

He said: “L/Cpl Smith died whilst working to make a difference in Afghanistan, constructing a checkpoint to ensure long-term security in Nad-e Ali and a better life for the Afghan people.

“Confident, dependable and extremely capable, he thoroughly understood and excelled in his role in Afghanistan.”

Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said he was “immensely saddened” to learn of both deaths.