Tributes paid to Norfolk soldier

STEPHEN PULLINGER A soldier from Gorleston killed by an explosive device while on duty in Afghanistan's troubled Helmand Province was today described as a devout Christian who was “passionate about the army”.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A soldier from Gorleston killed by an explosive device while on duty in Afghanistan's troubled Helmand Province was today described as a devout Christian who was “passionate about the army”.

Cpl Darren Bonner, 31, of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, had been a popular doorman at Long John's Bar on Yarmouth's Britannia Pier during spells at home, and had been planning to marry his fiancée Becca, from Hemsby, and buy a home in the area after his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The moment tragedy struck 11km east of Hyderabad was graphically reported in today's Daily Telegraph by its correspondent Thomas Harding, who was travelling with Cpl Bonner's convoy.

He wrote: “The signaller's voice crackled over the radio as we sat in the back of our armoured vehicle. 'We have a mine strike.' Ahead we could see smoke from the scene of the blast.

“'We have a one-times T1 casualty,' the commander said, referring to the severest-injury category. 'We require an emergency response team as soon as possible'. Very soon came the news that the T1 had become a T4 - the category for dead.”

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Cpl 'Big Daz' Bonner, the lead signaller serving with A (Norfolk) Company Group, 1 Royal Anglian Battlegroup, was today described as a larger-than-life figure.

Mark Warren, boss of Hi-tech Security, which employed Cpl Bonner as a doorman, said: “He was a top bloke, a real laugh and great to be around.”

Britannia Pier manager Craig Hilton said: “I could not believe it when I heard the news. He was an excellent guy with a placid temperament who got on with everyone. He was passionate about the army and enthusiastic to get back to Afghanistan. He absolutely loved what he did.”

Cpl Bonner joined the army in 1993 and served with the regiment's 2nd battalion on operational deployments in Northern Ireland and the Balkans. In 2004 he moved across to the 1st Battalion and served as a key member of the signals platoon in Iraq in 2006.

He was a devout Christian and had taken the lead in organising a memorial for a recent fatality in A company. He would regularly give up his time for others, teaching football or mentoring army cadets near his home town.

The night before his death he was seen reading the Bible by his friends, drawing strength before facing the dangers of the operation.

Cpl Bonner's company commander, Major Dominic Biddick, said: “Cpl Bonner was an incredibly caring and compassionate man. Behind the tattoos and the muscle lay a man with huge emotional intelligence who provided a real father figure to many of the younger soldiers in A company.”

Sgt Stuart Rumsey, a fellow Signaller, said: “Cpl Daz Bonner was the life and soul of the company. Professionally talented, no task was beyond his determination to succeed.”

Defence secretary Des Browne said: “My thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Cpl Bonner at this very difficult time. By all accounts, he was a determined and highly professional soldier who looked after those around him.”

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