Tributes paid to latest soldiers to die in Afghanistan

Company Sgt Maj Colin Beckett
Image caption Company Sergeant Major Beckett had been in the Army for 20 years

Two soldiers who died within 24 hours of each other have been named as Company Sergeant Major Colin Beckett and Ranger David Dalzell.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Beckett, from 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was killed by a bomb on Saturday.

Ranger Dalzell, from Bangor in County Down, serving with 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, died on Friday.

A total of 352 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan.

Ranger Dalzell, 20, died in an accident in Nad-e Ali, the Ministry of Defence said.

Sgt Maj Beckett, 36, died in the village of Shaheed, also in Nad-e Ali district when an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up as he was moving into position to cover his comrades.

Sgt Maj Beckett joined the Army in 1990 and was known as "Tom". He had served in Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.

Originally from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, he had been expecting his first child with his wife Rachel, later this month.

Mrs Beckett said: "We love him and shall miss him so very much. May his love for life, strength, humour and strong character live on forever in his baby girl Freya."

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Coates, said: "Warrant Officer Class 2 Colin Beckett was one of the most talented sergeant majors of his generation.

"With a long and distinguished career spanning countless deployments and three tours in Afghanistan, he represented the very essence of a paratrooper - professional to the core, devoted to his men and hugely respected.

"He was a family man and a true gentleman. But most of all, to us, he will be remembered as a fellow paratrooper and trusted friend who unconditionally gave his all in life."

Ranger Dalzell's parents Gordon and Susan paid tribute to their son, saying he left "a void that will never be filled".

"He will be missed by his brothers Gareth, Mark and Stewart and sisters Kelly, Catherine and Rachael," they added.

Ranger Dalzell joined the the Royal Irish Regiment based at Tern Hill, Shropshire, in July 2010 after his recruit training and was on his first deployment.

Image caption Ranger David Dalzell "brought humour to a harsh environment"

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, whose constituency includes Tern Hill, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ranger Dalzell's family and friends.

"I hope that in time they will be able to take some comfort from the knowledge that he died in the service of his country."

The MoD said details of the accident will be outlined at an inquest.

'Core of steel'

Ranger Dalzell's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Weir, described him as "an extraordinary young man" who was "much loved by his fellow soldiers".

He said: "He took to the field of battle like a natural. He was perfectly at home in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances."

Lt Col Weir said: "David was a bright, cheerful and popular young man with a core of steel.

"His presence in the most fought-over part of Helmand contributed significantly to the safety of the population and to the success of our mission."

Colleagues in his platoon said he was a brilliant soldier.

Captain Tobias Whitmarsh said: "Ranger David Dalzell spent the majority of this tour where the fighting was fiercest, in the badlands of central Zaborabad.

"A key figure on every patrol, it was he who without fail carried the heaviest piece of equipment, winning the respect and admiration of his platoon.

"He was subsequently hand-picked to man Ranger, a new checkpoint situated in ground taken from the Taliban and in which the local people now live free from persecution and fear - this is his legacy."

Ranger Colin McMoordie added he "brought humour to a harsh environment" and Ranger Silbert Wilson said they were "brothers-in-arms".

Ranger Wilson said: "We had a lot in common, we both like tattoos, dance music and having a laugh.

"We ended up in the same section in Checkpoint Sabat and when we went on patrol he was the man behind me and I used to joke with him 'to stop following me will you' - that always made us laugh.

"He helped me out of some pretty bad fire-fights. Ranger Dalzell was a brilliant soldier and an even more brilliant friend. I'll miss him sorely."

The deaths include 42 who died in accidents, from illnesses, or from non-combat injuries.

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