A Warwickshire soldier who was killed in Afghanistan was among a group of five men whose deaths have taken the UK death toll to more than 200.
Father-of-two, Sergeant Simon Valentine, aged 29, of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who was known as ‘Val’ to his friends, was killed in an explosion in Helmand Province last Saturday.
The 200th soldier to die was Private Richard Hunt, aged 21, of The 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, who died of wounds on Saturday at the Royal College of Defence Medicine, at Selly Oak Hospital.
Sgt Valentine, of Bedworth, Warwickshire, also died on Saturday.
His death was as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion while on a foot patrol near Sangin, northern Helmand Province.
His wife, Gemma, who was married to him for seven years after attending the same school together, said: “Simon, above all else, was a truly loved father, son, husband and friend. To have known him was to have loved him.”
His Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Calder, said: “Sergeant Valentine was quite simply an outstanding Platoon Sergeant.
“He achieved what needed to be done with a light touch when in camp, and when on the ground he gave enormous confidence to all the Fusiliers with him by his meticulously professional approach. He will be remembered for being a central figure in the Corps of Drums, proud to represent the Fusiliers on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.
“First and foremost he was a great family man, and it is to Gemma and his two daughters, Chantelle and Niamh, that the battalion sends its heartfelt condolences.”
Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, paid tribute to him as a “true leader”.
He said: “Sergeant Simon Valentine was clearly hugely experienced; a true leader of men who was admired by all those who served with him.
“The news of his death is deeply saddening and I extend my condolences to his family, friends and all those who benefited from serving with this excellent soldier.”
Commanding Officer 2 Rifles Battle Group, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, added: “Gritty, indomitable and with a rucksack full of charm is how I will remember Sergeant Valentine, one of my Fusilier heroes.
“I met Sergeant V first in Hounslow and he was infectiously upbeat – about everything.”
Five soldiers lost their lives over the weekend, bringing the UK service personnel killed since the start of the campaign to 204.
The latest deaths follow those of three soldiers killed by roadside bombs while on foot patrol in Helmand last Thursday. Two had been attempting to help a comrade who had been wounded by an earlier blast.
Rifleman Daniel Wild, 19, of Easington in County Durham, and Captain Mark Hale, both serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, were carrying Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, of 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, of North Yorkshire, when they were hit by a second explosion.