1. ITV Report

Afghan troop deaths 'a hammer blow'

Fusilier Samuel Flint Photo: MOD

The deaths of three soldiers, including one from Blackpool, who were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan are a "hammer blow", a spokesman for their battalion has said.

Fusilier Samuel Flint, from Blackpool, died with Corporal William Savage and Private Robert Hetherington when their Mastiff armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED) on a routine patrol in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand province, on Tuesday.

Speaking outside Glencorse barracks near Edinburgh, Major Tim Petransky, a spokesman for The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (2 Scots), said it was an "extremely sad" time for the families of the three men.

He said: "The whole battalion's thoughts, whether deployed in Afghanistan or back here in the United Kingdom as part of the rear operations group, is with the families of these brave men and also those who were injured in this incident.

"The mood at The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (2 Scots), is as you would expect: sombre but determined.

"The loss of three of our brothers in arms in any circumstances would be tragic but to lose three in one go is a hammer blow.

"I know that the battalion, its families and the regiments as a whole will, with great stoicism, pride and professionalism, carry on in a manner that would have made our three men proud.

"Those in Afghanistan will now be concentrating on the job at hand - putting back on their body armour, picking up their rifles and getting on the ground to continue this difficult but vital mission.

"Our thoughts are also very much with our sister battalion 7 Scots, to which Private Hetherington belonged. They too will be grieving."

Cpl Savage, 30, and Fusilier Flint, 21, were both from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (2 Scots), and Pte Hetherington, 25, was from 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (7 Scots).

The Ministry of Defence said the men were part of a patrol travelling along Route 611 between Forward Operating Base Ouellette and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai in Nahr-e-Saraj when their vehicle was hit by the IED blast.

Their deaths take to 444 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Six have died in 2013.

Avid Manchester City fan Fusilier Flint, from Blackpool, joined the Army in November 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

A statement from the Flint-Broughton family said: "The whole family is completely devastated.

"Everyone should know that Sam loved his job and made his whole family and everyone that knew him very proud.

"Sam was always the life and soul of the party, a real ladies' man, witty, funny, the real cheeky chappy.

"He was a loving son, the protective brother, courageous nephew, the caring uncle, the loyal grandson that anyone would wish to have."

Corporal William Savage Credit: MOD

Cpl Savage's wife Lyndsey, who is pregnant with their first child, said: "I am completely devastated by this news, but extremely proud of 'Sav' and everything that he has achieved. He loved being a soldier!

"I have lost the love of my life and the father of our son. I know his life will live on through so many amazing memories that we shared together."

Private Robert Murray Hetherington Credit: MOD

Pte Hetherington, who was born in the US but raised and educated in Scotland, enlisted in the Territorial Army in October 2006 and hoped to attend the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

Six other men were injured in the first case of British troops dying in a Mastiff since the armoured vehicles were introduced to the campaign in 2007.

An investigation is under way into the incident, which is thought to have involved a particularly large bomb.