Deadly toll in Afghanistan heaps pressure on Brown

Three 18-year-olds on their first tour of duty named among the six killed on bloodiest day of fighting against Taliban

Three 18-year-old soldiers on their first tour of duty have been named as the victims of the most deadly attack on British forces in Afghanistan.

They died trying to save their comrades in an ambush which claimed the lives of two other members of their platoon and severely injured five others.

The soldiers from The Rifles regiment were part of a 30-man team searching enemy country in the Wishtan area early on Friday when a bomb ripped through the 15ft-high walls of a compound. While a medical team was being flown in by helicopter, the men pulled back to regroup and were caught in the next part of the attack – a second bomb ignited by a "daisy chain" mechanism.

The details of eight British fatalities which occurred in the bloodiest 24 hours British forces have encountered in this war emerged as Gordon Brown was once again forced to defend the conduct of the campaign amid a rising tide of accusations and recriminations.

The Opposition and senior former military commanders charged the Government with failing to send troop reinforcements and provide adequate armoured vehicles and helicopters.

The human cost on the ground was highlighted yesterday when the Ministry of Defence named the men who had fallen during a period of fierce fighting, in which British and American forces took on the Taliban in the heartland of the insurgency.

They were Rifleman William Aldridge, Rifleman James Backhouse, Rifleman Joseph Murphy, all aged 18, Rifleman Daniel Simpson, 20, and Corporal Jonathan Horne, 28, from 2nd Battalion The Rifles.

Rifleman Murphy died while trying to drag Rifleman Simpson to safety. Rifleman Aldridge and Corporal Horne were trying to help other injured personnel. Rifleman Backhouse had gone ahead to clear a path.

Corporal Lee Scott, 26, from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, died in another explosion near Nad-e-Ali.

The offensive in Helmand is exacting a heavy toll on the coalition – 11 Americans and two Canadians also died in the past week. Senior British defence sources say that about 190 Taliban fighters have been killed in the British end of the operation, with about 60 more, many of them foreign fighters, still putting up resistance.

In London the Prime Minister paid tribute to the fallen. "I know that this has been a difficult summer – it is going to be a difficult summer," he said. "I think the operation we are engaged with is showing signs of success. Our troops are making progress."

The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said simply providing more helicopters would not solve the problem: "What we are trying to do is to give people a complete range of vehicles to do the various jobs they need to do. People believe we can somehow remove the risk, that we can prevent death in this kind of operational environment – we can't."

US President Barack Obama, said his "heart went out" to the families of those killed and praised Britain's contribution to the effort in Afghanistan: "Great Britain has played an extraordinary role in this coalition. The contribution of the British is critical."

Rifleman Aldridge, from Bromyard, Hertfordshire, was 17 years old when he signed up to the Army. He was described as being "fiercely proud" of the fact he was one of the youngest British soldiers in Helmand.

His mother, Lucy, said he was the "perfect" son. "The family can't pay William or his comrades who died with him a big enough tribute," she said.

Commanding officer of C Company, Major Alistair Field, said Rifleman Aldridge had come to his aid after the first explosion. "We were both injured and in shock together but he comforted me with his patience and kind words," Major Field said. "Sadly his life was snatched by another explosion."

Rifleman Backhouse, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, could always be relied on and was quick to volunteer for any task, said Major Field.

Rifleman Murphy, from Birmingham, a devoted Aston Villa fan, was described by officers in his unit as a "a star in the waiting". 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."

Rifleman Simpson, 20, from Croydon, south London, had an eight-month-old son, Alfie. A statement on behalf of his parents, Debrah and Robert, and brothers Lee and Jimmy, said: "Daniel Simpson was a larger than life character, sometimes a bit of a handful and always full of surprises."

Cpl Horne, 28, from Walsall, West Midlands, joined the Army in 2004. He had also served in Iraq – where he was wounded in action – and in 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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road