The British military death toll in Afghanistan reached 200 last night, as a soldier injured in an explosion while patrolling in Helmand Province died of his wounds.
The soldier, from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, was hurt in an attack while on patrol near Musa Qala on Thursday morning and had been flown back to the UK. He died yesterday in Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, the Ministry of Defence said.
Almost half the British military deaths since operations began in 2001 have occurred in the past 14 months.
The milestone was "deeply tragic", said Gordon Brown. "Every man and woman fighting for their country is someone's son or daughter, someone's brother or sister, or someone's father or mother," he said.
"We are hugely indebted to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and today my thoughts are with the families and friends of all those soldiers who have died in Afghanistan serving our country. But my commitment is clear: we must and will make Britain safer by making Afghanistan more stable."
The news came as a report ordered by the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said the tally of injured soldiers was piling further pressure on the "heavily committed" forces. The report, dated April 2009, said the Army's own sickness figures were inaccurate to the extent they "should be in the thousands, not hundreds", The Sunday Telegraph claimed.
Earlier, tributes were paid to three British soldiers killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, also on Thursday. They were ambushed while providing security for a meeting of tribal elders in the run-up to Afghanistan's presidential elections this week.
Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, of 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, was injured in the initial blast. He was being helped to safety when a second device exploded and killed him. Rifleman Daniel Wild, 19, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles, died as he carried a wounded colleague to the safety of a helicopter landing site in Sangin, a hotbed for Taliban activity in Helmand Province in recent months and scene of several roadside explosions. Captain Mark Hale, also in the foot patrol helping L/Bdr Hatton to safety when the bombs went off, later died from his injuries at Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan.
Rifleman Wild, from Hartlepool, was described as a "fearless" soldier who had saved lives through quick thinking in previous Taliban attacks in Helmand. Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson said: "He was selfless to a fault – everyone else, whatever their rank, came first and his nature was to hunt out the funny side of life."
L/Bdr Hatton, from Easingwold, North Yorkshire, was known for his enthusiasm, and colleagues recollected how he stayed up studying tactical briefings. His parents, Phillip and Jill, and girlfriend, Tasha Chehab, said: "Matt always wanted to be a soldier. He passionately enjoyed his job. He was very brave and a credit to both us and the Army." Lt-Col Thomson added that L/Bdr Hatton "was a master of his art" who had "dug my riflemen out of some very hairy moments".
Capt Hale, 42, described as "brave, huge and full-on", was the battle group's logistics officer. He had risen through the ranks after joining the Army at 16. Devoted to his wife, Brenda, and their two daughters, he was a committed Christian and had a master's degree in psychology. "He oozed quality, humanity and had a tremendous sense of fun, which frequently lightened the load of this extraordinary tour," said Lt-Col Thomson. "He was undentable. Nothing phased him, however demanding the situation, and his ability to absorb work, pressure and other people's worries was genuinely legendary."