Soldier husband's tribute to 'hero' wife

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The soldier husband of the first British woman to die on active service in Afghanistan paid tribute to his "amazing" wife today.

Corporal Sarah Bryant, of the Intelligence Corps, was one of four soldiers to die in an explosion on Tuesday.

They were taking part in a planned operation east of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province in the south of the country when their vehicle was blown up.

The other three soldiers were named today by the MoD as Corporal Sean Robert Reeve, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin and Paul Stout.

Mrs Bryant's husband Corporal Carl Bryant said: "Although I am devastated beyond words at the death of my beautiful wife Sarah, I am so incredibly proud of her.

"She was an awesome soldier who died doing the job that she loved.

"My wife knew the risks, she was there because she wanted to be, and she wouldn't have had it any other way."

He added: "She was funny, kind and the most amazing person to be around. I will never stop being thankful for the time I spent as her husband.

"I love her now and always, with all my heart, as do her proud parents, friends and family.

"My wife was a truly special person who died a hero. Sarah, as with all our fallen, must never be forgotten."

Three of the soldiers were killed in the blast and the fourth pronounced dead on arrival at Camp Bastion, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Liverpool-born Mrs Bryant spoke the local Pashtu language, and her work involved monitoring Taliban telephone and walkie-talkie communications.

She had just been pre-selected for promotion to sergeant, the MoD said.

Speaking from his home in Cumbria, Mrs Bryant's father Des Feely said: "There are so many people, both in the military and locally where she grew up, that are not only going to be touched by this but also devastated at the loss of such a beautiful girl.

"Nothing much seems to have changed since the days of Churchill's famous speech. Never have so many owed so much to so few. We truly have lost the 'Angel of the North'."

The incident took the UK's death toll over a bloody 10-day period to nine.

A total of 106 British service personnel have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in November 2001.

The recent series of deaths marks a sharp upturn in violence against troops after a period of relative stability.

Tuesday's incident was the biggest single loss of life for British troops since September 2006, when 14 personnel were killed when an RAF Nimrod came down near Kandahar.

An inquest in May found that enemy action was not a factor in the aircraft's crash.

Coroners and opposition politicians have voiced concerns that troops in Afghanistan have not been given enough protection against roadside bombs.

Experts have called for military vehicles to be given extra protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and for British forces to be provided with more helicopters.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, told the BBC yesterday: "Helicopters are still vulnerable, but they're not vulnerable to this sort of weapon."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed his "deepest condolences" to the families of the soldiers.

He said British forces had made "great progress" against the Taliban, noting that the insurgents were increasingly using mines and roadside bombs rather than open combat.

Mr Brown told Prime Minister's Questions: "They are no longer fighting as an army. They are fighting as an insurgency.

"That is why we are re-ordering the way our forces work in Afghanistan and that is why we are taking new equipment to Afghanistan.

"We are well equipped and will be better equipped in the months to come to deal with this new problem."

Defence Secretary Des Browne rejected suggestions that British troops in Afghanistan could start "losing heart" after the recent surge in casualties.

Speaking after a memorial service in Edinburgh for soldiers who have lost their lives in the country, he said: "We just have to convince everybody that these sacrifices, these losses, are necessary for the safety of the world and I think there's a general acceptance that that is the case."

He announced on Monday that hundreds more British personnel would be deployed to Afghanistan, taking troop numbers to a record high of 8,030 by next spring.