A mother last night spoke of her grief for her 'lovable rogue' son who was killed along with two other Midland soldiers in a bomb blast in Iraq.
Private Leon Spicer, aged 26 from Tamworth, Staffordshire, was killed when the armoured Land Rover he was travelling in was ripped apart by a roadside bomb on Saturday.
Second Lieutenant Richard Shearer, aged 26 from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and Private Philip Hewett, aged 21, also from Tamworth, who were both in the vehicle, were also killed.
All three were from the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment, which has its regimental headquarters in Lichfield.
Pte Spicer (pictured) had been so committed to his job, he had convinced Army officials to send him to Iraq two months ago despite a serious leg injury he had endured last year.
His mother Bridie, a 61-year-old data input clerk, said she did not know how she would live without the eldest of her three children.
She said: ?Leon was a caring and sensitive boy with a lovely sense of humour. He loved his family and he loved his job.
?He was totally devoted to the Army and so proud to be part of the 1st Battalion. He even read up on the regiment?s history and told us about all the friends he had made in the Army.
?He was a lovable rogue who loved going out walking with Tammy, our German shepherd, in Tamworth. I don?t know how we are going to cope without him. At least he died doing a job he loved.?
The former pupil of Wilnecote High School and St Gabriel?s School, both in Tamworth, had been in the Army for two years.
His family plan to fix a date for a memorial service at the Sacred Heart Church in Tamworth.
Pte Hewett, who had been driving the Land Rover, died from his wounds while receiving first aid. He had only just returned to Iraq from leave in the UK, the MoD said.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Williams said the 21-year-old had been identified for promotion for his intelligence, fitness and excellent attitude.
He said: ?This is simply devastating. Pte Hewett was a cheerful and intelligent young man with a natural air of confidence. He was always full of good humour and stories.
?He had a sound future in the Army and had been selected to attend a promotional course in the winter.?
Second Lt Shearer had served in the French Foreign Legion and joined his county?s regiment a year ago. Lt Col Williams said he was considered a ?leader of men and a true soldier? by the troops.
He said: ?His passion for soldiering was infectious and he was highly respected by everyone. His men loved him and regarded him as much more than their platoon commander.
?He was one of the very best of his peers and an inspiration. He had a mischievous sense of humour and was fun to be around.
?To lose any member of a team is a severe blow, but the loss of three such popular and professional men is simply devastating. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families through this terrible and tragic time.?
A spokesman from the Ministry of Defence said that an investigation was under way into the deaths and that security in Iraq was under constant review.
The 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment has been deployed in Al Amarah, which is in the Maysan province near the Iranian border.
Two other soldiers are being treated at a field hospital for minor injuries from the bomb blast.
The device exploded as the men patrolled the Risaala neighbourhood of Al Amarah.
Major Jim Massey, from the Staffordshire Regiment, said: ?The pace of life is so fast out there that the men have to pick themselves up and get on with it quickly.
?For that you rely on the people at the top to rally people and lower down it falls to the sergeants and corporals. But, of course, they will all be very upset.?