Tributes pour in to Marines killed in blast

In a morning of close quarters combat in the heart of Taliban country, a Royal Marine team found themselves trapped in an ambush. Their section commander, a corporal, fell shot to the ground. Sam Alexander grabbed a heavy machine-gun and traded fire with insurgents just 15 metres away while charging forward. Running out of ammunition, he fired with his 9mm pistol until that too was spent. But he had done enough: the enemy fled.

He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. What made what he did even more remarkable was that just a few hours earlier he had been shot in the head, the bullet embedding itself in his helmet. But he had refused to fall back, knowing that leaving his unit a man short would make his comrades more vulnerable on such a violent day.

Last Friday, two years later, Marine Alexander, 28, and 23-year-old Lieutenant Ollie Augustin, both of 42 Commando, were killed by a roadside bomb at Loy Mandeh Kalay in the Nad-e-Ali district of Helmand, an area infiltrated by the Taliban after being cleared in previous operations.

Along with other British forces, the Marines had been working alongside Afghan government forces in preparation for handover of security which would start with the Helmand capital, Lashkar Gar, this summer. Establishing governance in places such as Nad-e-Ali is considered vital to this process.

Yesterday the families of Marine Alexander, of Hammersmith, London, and Lieutenant Augustin, from Kent, and fellow Marines spoke about the two men.

Marine Alexander leaves behind his wife Claire, one-year-old son Leo, father Stuart and mother Serena. Claire said: "Sam was so special. He was the gentlest of men but tough when he needed to be. He risked his safety for his friends but never batted an eyelid. He was a loving husband and a wonderful father. He was our rock and my best friend. He has been taken from me all too soon. We both love him and will miss him very much."

His mother Serena said: "The legacy that Sam leaves is hope – hope for oppressed people all over the world. There are people like Sam who risk their lives for others. Wherever you are now Sam, keep on fighting. You will never be forgotten."

Marine Alexander's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison, said "He was courageous, selfless, resolute, loyal and cheerful in the face of adversity. "

Lieutenant Augustin, who was leading the patrol when the IED (improvised explosive device) detonated, did voluntary work in Africa before joining the Marines. He leaves behind his father Sean, his mother Jane and his sister Sarah.

His parents said: "Ollie was a much loved and cherished son. He was a beautiful boy who we were very proud of. He had many friends that he loved and who loved him in return."

Lieutenant Colonel Murchison said: "Lieutenant Ollie Augustin Royal Marines was a Troop Commander with considerable potential and a bright future ahead of him. Despite only passing for duty a matter of months ago, he had already made a considerable impact within Juliet Company and across the Unit. "

Meanwhile, Nato has launched an investigation into an air strike which Afghan officials said killed 18 civilians and 20 policemen in Nuristan province.

Nuristan governor Jamaluddin Badr said 70 insurgents were also killed in the strike. "The policemen were killed due to friendly fire," he said, adding that the air strike in Du Ab district targeted a location which the officers "had just" re-captured from insurgents.

"Civilians were killed because the Taliban... ran out of ammunition [and] fled into the civilians' houses, and then the civilians were mistaken [for] Taliban and fired upon," he added. Local media reported that district governor Fida Mohammad and police chief Allah Dad were among the wounded.

President Hamid Karzai issued a "last warning" to Nato yesterday after it emerged that US Marines had called in an airstrike in Helmand province that inadvertently killed 14 villagers, including two women and 10 children.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there