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  1. ITV Report

Body of Lancashire soldier returned home

Samuel Flint Photo:

The bodies of three soldiers, including one from Blackpool, who were killed when the armoured vehicle they were travelling in hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan have arrived back in the UK.

The plane carrying Corporal William Thomas Savage and Fusilier Samuel Flint, both of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (2 SCOTS), and Private Robert Murray Hetherington, from 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (7 SCOTS), landed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshireat 1.30pm.

A private service was then held for their families at the military air base.

The soldiers were killed when their Mastiff armoured vehicle hit an IED on a routine patrol in Helmand province on April 30.

Six other soldiers were injured in what was the first case of British troops being killed while travelling in the heavily armoured vehicle - first introduced in 2007.

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 the blast occurred.

It is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Around 200 people gathered to pay their respects, lining the streets of Carterton, near Brize Norton, as a convoy of hearses bearing the soldiers' Union flag draped coffins came past.

The crowd of well-wishers and servicemen braved driving rain and blustery conditions to line the route.

A bell tolled mournfully as the cortege passed a memorial garden where the hearses paused.

As they came to a halt, relatives of the tragic comrades placed dozens of red, white and blue flowers on top of the vehicles and comforted eachother.

A party of Royal British Legion standard bearers also paid tribute to the soldiers' sacrifice, lowering their standards as the hearses passed.

The hearses were taking the coffins to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Cpl Savage's wife Lyndsey, who is expecting their first child, previously paid tribute to the soldier, known as Sav, who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and been in the army since 2003.

"I am completely devastated by this news but extremely proud of Sav and everything that he has achieved," she said.

"He loved being a soldier.

"I have lost the love of my life and the father of our son.

"He will be deeply missed amongst family, friends and the Regiment."

Fusilier Flint, from Blackpool, joined the army in November 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

The motorsports enthusiast and avid Manchester City fan was described as the "life and soul of the party" by his family.

The 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."

Pte Hetherington, 25, was born in the US but raised and educated in Scotland.

He enlisted in the Territorial Army in October 2006 and was mobilised to join The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, for Operation Herrick 18 last November.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robin Lindsay, described him as epitomising "everything that is excellent about the reserve forces".

"Private Bobby Hetherington was a thoughtful and humorous soldier who was always quick to find the fun in Army life and to keep the chain of command on our toes with his sharp wit and insightful mind," he said.

"He was gregarious and open and this made him a much-liked and respected member of his platoon and the battalion."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond also paid tribute to the soldiers, describing them as "exceptional men who served their country with distinction".

The blast that killed the men is thought to have involved a particularly large bomb.

Officials are looking into whether insurgents are designing bigger bombs aimed at piercing the 23-tonne Mastiff's heavy armour.

The deaths take the number of UK service personnel who have lost their lives since operations began in 2001 in Afghanistan to 444.

Six have died in 2013, with the deaths of two British soldiers, Sapper Richard Walker of 28 Engineer Regiment and Kingsman David Shaw of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, in January this year and that of Lance Corporal Jamie Webb, of 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), in March.

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