Two soldiers killed in Afghanistan blast


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The Independent Online

Two British soldiers died today when their armoured vehicle struck a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan.

Their deaths, while on patrol in Helmand Province, came as friends and relatives paid tribute to Lance Corporal Peter Eustace, 25, who was killed by an improvised explosive device yesterday.

The two soldiers, from the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, had been providing security in the Yakchal region of Nahr-e-Saraj when they were caught in the explosion.

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Mackenzie said: "It is with great sadness that I must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards after their vehicle was hit by an IED.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones of both these brave soldiers at this very difficult time."

The pair died while serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Their next of kin were informed as the grieving family of L/Cpl Eustace spoke of their loss.

In a statement, his mother Carol, sister Kirsty, brother Ryan and girlfriend Aimi said: "Peter was very fit and he always wanted to join the Army.

"He was committed to carrying out a full career there. He will be missed by his family and friends and is loved by all.

"Peter was a loving son and grandson and will be especially missed by his girlfriend, Aimi. He will also be missed by loving dog Macey."

The soldier, of 2nd Battalion the Rifles, was hailed by his commanding officer as "one of those men you can completely rely on when things get tough".

L/Cpl Eustace, from Liverpool, known to his friends as "Eust", worked briefly as a painter and decorator before joining the Army in late 2004.

He served hard-fought tours in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2006-07 and in the deadly Sangin district of northern Helmand in 2009.

He returned to Afghanistan last month as a mortar fire controller with Delhi Company of 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Wright, commanding officer of 2 Rifles, said L/Cpl Eustace was "blessed with a huge character that matched his size".

"He had nothing left to prove as a warrior. He was one of those men you can completely rely on when things get tough," he said.

"He will be sorely missed by all, particularly the mortar platoon and his fellow chosen men in the corporals' mess. Their parties will be far quieter without him.

"All our thoughts and heartfelt best wishes are with his family and friends at this tragic time."

Major Spiro Marcandonatos, officer commanding Delhi Company of 1 Yorks, described L/Cpl Eustace as an "upstanding and fiercely loyal individual".

He said: "A lively character, he served us extremely well from the moment we were first introduced and his experience was vital to the company, hitting the ground running and taking the fight to the Taliban. He will be sorely missed."

Captain Mark Endersby, of 2 Rifles, said it was testament to L/Cpl Eustace that all around him, including the Afghan soldiers he fought alongside, were "deeply hurt" by his loss.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I was hugely saddened to learn of the death of Lance Corporal Eustace.

"The touching tributes I have read show that he was a professional and natural soldier who was held in the highest regard by all those who worked with him.

"He fought bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to this tour, where he has paid the ultimate sacrifice for us at home in the UK. My thoughts are with his loved ones."