Soldier 'died protecting colleagues'

L/Cpl Ashworth
Image caption L/Cpl Ashworth was described as an 'outstanding soldier' and 'quite exceptional man'.

A British soldier killed by a grenade in Afghanistan on Wednesday was trying to protect his colleagues, his commanding officers have said.

L/Cpl James Ashworth, 23, from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, from Kettering, Northamptonshire, was killed in Nahr-e-Saraj District.

He was described as an "outstanding soldier" and the regiment "will never forget this quite exceptional man".

The number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 418.

L/Cpl Ashworth was on patrol to disrupt insurgent activity when he was caught in the blast from a grenade. He died despite receiving immediate medical treatment.

'Quite exceptional man'

His father Duane served in the Grenadier Guards and his brother, Coran, 21, is serving with the Army in Northern Ireland.

He lived with his mother Kerryann and his girlfriend Emily and also leaves sisters Lauren and Paige, brother Karl and four-year-old niece Darcy.

His family said in statement: "We are devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and boyfriend.

"He meant the world to everyone and has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts. We ask that we are given time to grieve and we sincerely thank everyone for their condolences."

Lt Col James Bowder, commanding officer, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said L/Cpl Ashworth was an "outstanding soldier whose loss has moved us all".

"A real self-starter, he excelled in everything that he undertook. Fit, strong and brilliant at his job, he set the bar very high. Indeed, such was his calmness under pressure, his charisma, and his selflessness that he made an exemplary junior leader.

"L/Cpl Ashworth's death leaves a hole in the battalion - we have lost one of our very best soldiers. The battalion, and indeed the broader regiment, will never forget this quite exceptional man."

Capt Mike Dobbin, commander of Reconnaissance Platoon, Nijmegen Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, said L/Cpl Ashworth was killed trying to protect his colleagues.

"He was killed while fighting his way through compounds; leading his fire team from the front, whilst trying to protect his men and he showed extraordinary courage to close on a determined enemy. His professionalism under pressure and ability to remain calm in what was a chaotic situation is testament to his character.

"L/Cpl Ashworth was a pleasure to command and I will sorely miss his calming influence on the battlefield. Softly spoken, he stepped up to every task thrown in his direction."

L/Cpl Ashworth joined the Army at the age of 17 and completed a stint of ceremonial duty in London after joining Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.

He spent three years with the Guards' Parachute Platoon, part of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, deploying in Afghanistan with them. He returned to the Grenadiers, serving in Canada with The Queen's Company before moving to the Reconnaissance Platoon.

L/Cpl Ashworth had recently been promoted to the role of non-commissioned officer.