Death of three soldiers in Afghanistan a 'hammer-blow'

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Media captionMajor Tim Petransky: "The mood... is sombre but determined"

The deaths of three soldiers in Afghanistan are a "hammer-blow", a spokesman for the battalion in which the men served has said.

A bomb killed Cpl William Savage and Fusilier Samuel Flint from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland.

Pte Robert Hetherington, of the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion, a Territorial Army member, was also killed.

Pte Hetherington had joined the 2nd battalion to go to Afghanistan.

Maj Tim Petransky said Pte Hetherington "embodied the ethos of the Territorial Army, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us".

He described the mood in the battalion as "sombre but determined".

"Our thoughts are with the families of these brave men".

"I know that the battalion, its families and the regiment as a whole will, with great stoicism, pride and professionalism carry on in a manner that would have made our three men proud."

The three soldiers died after their Mastiff armoured vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

It is the first time soldiers travelling in a Mastiff have died, the Ministry of Defence said. The vehicle is considered one of the safest armoured vehicles in use by the British Army.

Six other soldiers were injured in the explosion.

Exceptional men

Cpl Savage, 30, from Ardrossan, Ayrshire, is survived by his wife Lyndsey, who is expecting their first child.

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

Lt Col Robin Lindsay, the soldiers' commanding officer, described Cpl Savage as an "exceptional soldier" and praised "his composed and professional approach (which) had a calming influence on his platoon".

Fusilier Flint, who was 21 and from Blackpool, was described by his family as "a loving son, the protective brother, courageous nephew, the caring uncle, the loyal grandson that anyone would wish to have".

Lt Col Lindsay said he was a soldier "brimming with skill and ability".

Pte Hetherington, 25, who was born in the US but grew up in Scotland, had only been in the regular Army for five months. He enlisted in the Territorial Army in October 2006.

He was a "highly effective infantryman, rated right at the top of his peer group", Lt Col Lindsay said.

Keith Robertson, a friend of Pte Hetherington, said the soldier had represented Scotland at lacrosse in the European Championship in 2008 and World Championship in 2010, and was captain at the 2012 European Championship.

Mr Robertson said: "He was a big guy and he could move very quickly, but he was also off the pitch an amazing person and dedicated to people."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "It is clear from the tributes paid to them that they were exceptional men who served their country with distinction."

Prime Minister David Cameron said the men's deaths were "a reminder of the high price we have paid as a country to help give this country [Afghanistan] a chance of safety and security in the future".

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