A Birmingham-based soldier was one of the two Midland troops killed in a road accident in Afghanistan, it was revealed yesterday.

Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman of 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment and Private Brian Tunnicliffe of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) were killed when their vehicle came off the road in Gereshk, Helmand province, at about 3am on Thursday.

The deaths take the number of British military fatalities in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001 to 81.

The MoD said the soldiers were travelling as part of a two-vehicle "replenishment patrol". The vehicle overturned and landed on its roof in an irrigation channel. One other passenger escaped without injury.

The men were on a mission to resupply troops taking part in Operation Palk Wahel. About 2,500 soldiers are taking part in the operation aimed at forcing the Taliban out of the upper Gereshk valley.

Colour Sergeant Newman, aged 36 and a father-of-three, enlisted into the Territorial Army in Coventry in 1994 as a member of the 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, later to become the West Midlands Regiment, and, as of September 1 this year, 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment. He was based at the Sheldon TA Centre in Birmingham.

He went to Afghanistan previously, and also to Iraq, in support of the regular Army.

An MoD spokesman said: "Due to his natural talent and hard work, he rose quickly through the ranks and became a formidable Colour Sergeant who was an outstanding model for the current-day Territorial Army soldier."

He leaves wife Stephanie and children Mackenzie, Josh and Tia.

Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Yardley, Commanding Officer of the Wolverhampton-based 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, said: "As a member of the Territorial Army he was well-known throughout all ranks of the battalion as a larger than life character and his thirst for adventure was infectious for so many of those who were close to him."

His wife Stephanie said: "Phil was a loving husband and a brilliant father of three to Josh, 12, Mackenzie, 11, and Tia, eight.

"He took great pride in all of his achievements. His great sense of humour made the most of any situation. We are very proud of him. He died doing what he loved and we will all miss him very much."

Pte Tunnicliffe, 33, from Ilkeston, was enlisted into the Army in Derby and began his training at the Army Training Regiment, Lichfield, followed by the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, in January 1997.

He served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Belize and Kenya.