Pay your tributes to Ipswich soldier

GRIEVING relatives of Ipswich friendly fire victim Private Aaron McClure have paid tribute to him, describing him as a bright and happy teenager who loved army life.

GRIEVING relatives of Ipswich friendly fire victim Private Aaron McClure have paid tribute to him, describing him as a bright and happy teenager who loved army life.

The 19-year-old died when a US fighter aircraft dropped a bomb as the Royal Anglians battled insurgents in Afghanistan.

Pte McClure's parents Lorraine and Karl and his brothers Lewis, Daniel and Ryan, said he would never be forgotten.

In a statement, they said: “He was never happier than when with family who knew him as a bright, happy, handsome lad who would do anything for anyone.

“Aaron was a light in our lives now extinguished, always loved, never forgotten.”

Ipswich was thrown into mourning as it was announced that one of the three Royal Anglian soldiers killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on Thursday was from the town.

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Pte McClure was patrolling an area north-west of Kajaki, Helmand Province, when the tragedy happened.

Two US F15s were called in to help when his unit came under attack from Taliban fighters.

One of the aircraft launched a bomb at around 6.30pm local time, which apparently exploded, killing the three soldiers and wounding two others.

The other soldiers killed were Privates Robert Foster, 19, from Harlow, and John Thrumble, 21, from Chelmsford - all in 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.

Pte McClure had only been serving in Afghanistan since March.

An MoD spokesman said he had established himself as a “highly capable, motivated and brave soldier”.

“Private McClure's friendly, modest exterior belied a soldier who was focused, physically and mentally tough, and intent on doing the utmost for his team-mates.

“His presence will be missed immensely by all within the company,” the spokesman said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, said: “It is tragic that where the Taliban had failed, it was an accident that has taken him from us.

“Loyal, hard working and highly professional, he constantly surpassed the standards expected, and his loss is a bitter blow to the whole Battalion.”

Major Tony Borgnis, Officer Commanding B (Suffolk) Company, described Pte McClure as “one of the hardest working and most dependable soldiers” he had worked with.

“His actions epitomised the very best qualities of the British Infantry in general, and the Royal Anglian Regiment in particular,” he said.

Lieutenant George Seal-Coon, Platoon Commander 7 Platoon B (Suffolk) Company paid tribute to Pte McClure saying he displayed the greatest levels of professionalism and dedication in the most dangerous environments.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said: “It is with profound sadness that I learnt of the death of Privates John Thrumble, Aaron McClure and Robert Foster of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan.

“Although it appears that their deaths are the result of a tragic incident involving allied forces, it is important to remember that they died participating in an operation vital to the security of the British and Afghan people.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the families, friends and colleagues of those killed or injured at this most difficult of times.”

He said the investigation into their deaths would be thorough and undertaken with great urgency.

Brigadier John Lorimer, Commander Task Force Helmand, said he was extremely saddened to hear of the soldiers' deaths, adding: “As professionals we must carry on with the job in hand - fighting a determined, cunning and cruel enemy with the clear goal of bringing peace, security and stability to Afghanistan on behalf of its government.

“We continue to work very closely with US Forces in Helmand and their contribution is instrumental to the success of our joint mission.

“Our track record speaks for itself - our partnership is highly effective and we have the insurgency on the back foot. This incident is all the more devastating because on numerous occasions, bombs dropped by US aircraft have saved the lives of British troops on the ground.”

It is believed to be the second friendly fire incident involving British troops in Afghanistan.

The MoD is still investigating reports that 21-year-old Royal Marine Jonathan Wigley was the victim of allied fire when he was killed in Helmand in December.

Eight UK service personnel have been killed by US fire in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003.

Thursday's incident brings the total number of British troops killed while on operations in Afghanistan since 2001, to 73. Of those, 50 were killed in action or died as a result of injuries sustained in action, while 23 are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents or have not yet been officially assigned a cause of death pending the outcome of an investigation.

The men are the latest casualties of the increasingly violent battle for control of Helmand province between coalition forces and the Taliban.

In recent months, British troops have been fighting to drive the Taliban out of parts of the volatile province and the intense fighting has seen the death toll escalate.

The Royal Anglians have suffered some of the heaviest casualties of any unit since their tour of duty in Helmand began five months ago, with nine soldiers killed and many more injured.

Pay your tributes to Pte Aaron McClure and send a message of support to his family by e-mailing starnews@eveningstar.co.uk or call 01473 324788.

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