THREE British soldiers killed on a foot patrol in Afghanistan were caught in a Taliban “daisy chain” trap involving consecutive bomb blasts.
Two of the men died as they attempted to help colleagues injured in an initial explosion in Sangin, Helmand.
Yesterday the Ministry of Defence named the three victims as Captain Mark Hale and Rifleman Daniel Wild of the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, and Lance-Bombardier Matthew Hatton, of the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery.
Hatton, 23, was one of three soldiers wounded by the first blast last Thursday. Wild, 19, and Hale, 42, were attempting to carry Hatton to a helicopter landing zone when a second bomb detonated. Hatton and Wild were killed instantly; Hale died from injuries in hospital at Camp Bastion.
All three were members of a foot patrol that was part of Operation Ghartse Kers 4, intended to provide security for a pre-election meeting of tribal elders.
Hale, 42, from Bournemouth, Dorset, who was married with two daughters, was a veteran of
Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq. He joined the army in 1983 aged 16, rising through the ranks to become regimental serjeant-major before being commissioned.
Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Thomson, Hale’s commanding officer, described him as a “brave, huge” man who “breathed courage into” his men: “He oozed quality, humanity and had a tremendous and mischievous sense of fun, which frequently lightened the load of this extraordinary tour.” His men had described him as “undentable” .
“Nothing fazed him,” said Thomson. “It is typical of this man that he died helping to evacuate wounded soldiers.”
Captain Rupert Streatfeild, the regiment’s operations officer, said Hale, who had stood in as padre at a regimental church service in Sangin, had a “strong and caring nature” which came from his deep Christian faith.
The deaths of the three men took the number of British fatalities in Afghanistan to 199. The 200th soldier died yesterday in hospital in Birmingham from wounds sustained in combat.
This weekend the father of one of the first British casualties of the Helmand deployment described the war as a “foolhardy mistake” and urged the government to pull out within two years.
Tony Philippson, whose son James died in 2006 after being sent into battle without the correct equipment, said the casualty rate was “morally unjustifiable”. He said the government was betraying soldiers by failing to protect them in combat and offering paltry compensation to the seriously injured.
Philippson’s 29-year-old son, who served in 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, was killed in a nighttime battle as his patrol attempted to rescue colleagues outside Sangin. They were not equipped with night-vision goggles.
Philippson rejected claims made by Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, that critics were “defeatist” for voicing concerns about the war in Afghanistan. “I object to that. I’m not defeatist, I’m a realist. I always thought invading Afghanistan was at best a foolhardy mistake and at worst an impossible situation they should never have got into,” he said.
“The casualty rate is horrific, unsustainable and having a huge effect on morale. We should be looking to leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later.”
Yesterday the family of Hatton, from Easingwold, North Yorkshire, described him as “full of fun, mischief” and someone who “always brought happiness to our days”.
His mother Jill, father Philip and girlfriend Tasha said in a statement: “Matt always wanted to be a soldier. He was very brave and a credit to both us and the army. We are really proud of him.”
Wild, who turned 19 last month, joined The Rifles in May last year and was due home on leave this week. Lieutenant Will Hignett, Wild’s platoon commander, said: “He was a star but we take solace in the fact he gave his life doing a job he adored, surrounded by friends who loved and respected him.”
Corporal Adam Newton, his section commander, said that as “point man” clearing the route for others to follow, “Wildy” had saved the lives of many of his colleagues.
Wild’s mother Laura, stepfather Alan, sister Megan, brothers Dale and Christopher, and girlfriend Kirsty said he would be “dearly missed but always in our hearts and minds; the best son, brother, boyfriend ever xx”.
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