Captain killed after tribute to soldier

MARK NICHOLLS The latest soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment killed in Afghanistan died only hours after paying tribute to one of his men who was killed after his patrol came under fire from Taliban insurgents.

MARK NICHOLLS

The latest soldier from the Royal Anglian Regiment killed in Afghanistan died only hours after paying tribute to one of his men who was killed after his patrol came under fire from Taliban insurgents, it emerged tonight.

He has been named as Captain David Hicks, the sixth and most senior Royal Anglian to die in action since the regiment's 1st Battalion deployed to Helmand province in April.

Captain Hicks, 26, was mortally injured when his patrol base was attacked by small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and indirect

fire at about 1.20pm on Saturday, yet remained concerned for his men.

He was flown by helicopter to Camp Bastion, but did not survive. Five other soldiers suffered minor injuries in the attack, the MoD said.

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Hours earlier, he had paid tribute to 27-year-old Private Tony Rawson, who was under his command in the regi-ment's C (Essex) Company and was killed at 6am on Friday .

Capt Hicks from Wokingham, Berks was the latest casualty of the increasingly violent battle for control of Hel-mand province between coalition forces and the Taliban.

Today, British soldiers were engaged in more intense fighting as a platoon from the 1st Battalion the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment were caught up in a ferocious gun battle after being am-bushed by Taliban fighters in no man's land deep inside Helmand's crucial “Green Zone.”

Two soldiers were flown by helicopter to hospital for emergency surgery - one with very serious injuries - when insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Such intense fighting has seen the death toll escalating in recent months and Capt Hicks' death brings the total of military personnel fatalities to 70 in Afghanistan since operations began in the country in November 2001.

Capt Hicks, who had previously served in Bosnia and Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan in March this year, had been involved in a number of battles against militant forces.

The MoD said that at the time of his death he was acting as Company Commander and had commanded a number of patrols fighting deep into Taliban territory.

The battalion's commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Carver said the captain was an outstanding officer who would be sorely missed by his battalion.

“It is typical of him that he had led from the forward position during the attack on his Company, in order to best direct the battle and provide an inspiring example to his men. Even after being mortally wounded his only concern was to get back into position to control the fight.

“Highly professional with a genuine concern for his soldiers, he typified the highest standards of leadership and commanded genuine respect from all who served with him.”

Colleagues described him as a leader of men, who had a unique sense of humour and was a good friend.

Defence secretary Des Browne said: “Capt Hicks' death is tragic. The loss of such a dedicated and talented officer is truly sad and I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family. My thoughts are also with the men of the men of the Royal Anglians who Captain Hicks led so courageously in battle.”

Capt Hicks' partner Nicola Billen said he was “a loving son, brother of Gareth and Edward and partner, kind-hearted and fun-loving: a true gentleman.”

His parents described their son, who studied at Oundle and University College London before joining the Army, as “a young, professional officer doing a difficult job in extremely challenging circumstances.”

In a statement, they said: “It was a job he wanted to do and he was under no illusions about the dangers he faced. He was totally committed both to his role and his fellow soldiers and he fervently believed that he was contributing to building a better world.”

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