Tributes to dead Suffolk airman

A Suffolk-based serviceman, who was killed in a small arms fire attack in southern Iraq this week, was today named as Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard.

A Suffolk-based serviceman, who was killed in a small arms fire attack in southern Iraq this week, was today named as Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard.

The 20-year-old of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, based at Honington, near Thetford, was taking part in a routine foot patrol near Basra Air Station on Tuesday night when his patrol came under insurgent fire.

The gunner, who is from Rainworth, near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, sustained a gunshot wound whilst in the Al Waki district of the Iraqi city.

A MoD spokesman said leading aircraftman Beard was evacuated by helicopter, but died at a field hospital. He leaves behind his loving family and fiancée Nic.

In a statement, the Officer Commanding of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, Squadron Leader Jason Sutton, said: “Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard had just turned 20 and had been with the Squadron since September, when he graduated from basic training with flying colours; an extremely proud day for his whole family but particularly for his sisters Victoria and Rachael to whom he was especially close.

“Better known to the Squadron as 'Beardy', he was outwardly a quiet man but this concealed a wicked sense of humour which would emerge at the most unexpected moments, usually when morale on his Flight needed a lift.

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“Strong, fit and an exceptionally gifted infantryman, he had such a bright future and had already set his sights on selection for special forces. I have no doubt whatsoever he would have succeeded in that as he did in all else. He was due to marry upon his return from Iraq and we all feel so deeply for his fiancée, Nic.”

Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, added: “Leading Aircraftman Beard was a very popular and highly promising young man who was a credit to The Royal Air Force Regiment. His death is tragic and I would like to express my condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. My thoughts are with them and we will do all we can to support them through this difficult time.”

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