Suffolk soldier's body returned to UK

THE body of a Suffolk rugby player who was the first soldier to be killed in Afghanistan this year has been returned to the country today.

THE body of a Suffolk rugby player who was the first soldier to be killed in Afghanistan this year has been returned to the country today.

Private Robert Hayes, 19, of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed by an explosion while on foot patrol in Helmand Province on January 3.

His body was flown in to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire this morning and, as has become tradition, passed through nearby Wootton Bassett this afternoon.

Private Hayes, from Burwell on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border, played for Newmarket Rugby Club.

In a statement released last week, his family said: “Trying to express the true measure of our sorrow - and our sense of loss - at this time, is impossible.

“We are still coming to terms with this devastating news. However, we are strengthened by the thought that he was with his comrades, doing the job he so dearly loved, when his life was taken.

Most Read

“From childhood, Robbie had one ambition, to be a soldier. He fulfilled his dream, last February, passing out from training, at Catterick, where he was described as a man of great determination and a credit to his platoon.

“Sport, particularly rugby and boxing, became his passion. He was a very popular young player for Newmarket Rugby Club and won his Battalion's boxing championships, at welterweight, in his first attempt.

“Robbie loved all aspects of life, in his home. Among his peers he enjoyed great popularity but found particular happiness with his girlfriend, Gemma.

“After training for Afghanistan he deployed to Helmand province last October. There his potential for promotion became noticeable. “Robbie sincerely believed his fellow 'Vikings' were his 'other', military, family. Although he had an enthusiastic and energetic personality, our son could just as easily behave with the manners of a gentle, reflective, caring person.

“As a grieving family, we would ask that our privacy be respected. We also ask that our brave son's memory be duly honoured."