Tributes have been paid to a "selfless, brave and fearless" Royal Marine who died in hospital in Birmingham after being injured in Afghanistan.
Marine Steven Birdsall, 20, of 40 Commando Royal Marines, was shot by insurgents in Sangin in Helmand Province on Sunday. He was flown back to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham but died from his wounds on Monday afternoon.
Mne Birdsall, who lived with his mother, father and younger sister Melissa, was described by his commanding officer as "the perfect marine". His parents said in a statement: "There are no words that could ever express the heartache of losing our beautiful son Steven who was always so selfless, brave and fearless."
He joined the Royal Marines in 2007, aged 18, and after training deployed to Afghanistan in April this year. The young marine was shot while he guarded a team of Royal Engineers reinforcing the defences at one of the British checkpoints in Sangin.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, commanding officer of 40 Commando Group, said Mne Birdsall's "gallantry, selflessness and determination" impressed everyone who knew him.
He said: "He possessed a sharp mind and a big and generous heart. He loved his family, his friends and his fellow marines, and they adored him in return. He was a consummate professional - forever focused, very proud and utterly dependable, yet always cheerful and magnanimous. He was the perfect marine."
Lieutenant Jon Phelps, officer commanding 11 Troop Bravo Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, described him as a "rising star" among young marines.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "Mne Birdsall has given his life helping to deliver real progress in Afghanistan, which is at the heart of our efforts to protect security in the UK. His colleagues speak of a brave, strong and dependable Marine. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones."
Two British soldiers from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment were shot dead in separate incidents in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand on Tuesday. The UK death toll since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 now stands at 298.