The pregnant wife of a British soldier who was killed alongside two comrades in an Afghanistan blast paid tribute to her husband, saying: "I have lost the love of my life."
Corporal William Savage, 30, known as "Sav", died with Fusilier Samuel Flint and Private Robert Hetherington when their Mastiff armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED) on a routine patrol in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province, on Tuesday.
Cpl Savage's wife Lyndsey, who is pregnant with their first child, said last night: "I am completely devastated by this news, but extremely proud of 'Sav' and everything that he has achieved. He loved being a soldier. I have lost the love of my life and the father of our son. I know his life will live on through so many amazing memories that we shared together."
Cpl Savage, who joined the Army in April 2003, had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan previously. Six other men were injured in the first case of British troops dying in a Mastiff since the armoured vehicles were introduced to the campaign in 2007. Cpl Savage and Fusilier Flint, 21, were both from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (2 Scots), and Pte Hetherington, 25, was from 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment Of Scotland (7 Scots).
The Ministry of Defence said the men were part of a patrol travelling along Route 611 between Forward Operating Base Ouellette and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai in Nahr-e-Saraj when their vehicle was hit by the IED blast. They were airlifted to the military hospital at Camp Bastion but could not be saved. It is not yet known how badly injured the other six soldiers were.
Their deaths take to 444 the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Six have died in 2013. It is understood that Tuesday's explosion was caused by a particularly large bomb, and officials are looking into whether insurgents are designing bigger bombs aimed at piercing the Mastiff's heavy armour.
Avid Manchester City fan Fusilier Flint, from Blackpool, joined the Army in November 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in March. A statement from the Flint-Broughton family said: "The whole family is completely devastated. Everyone should know that Sam loved his job and made his whole family and everyone that knew him very proud."
Pte Hetherington, 25, who was born in the US but raised and educated in Scotland, enlisted in the Territorial Army in October 2006 and hoped to attend the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Lieutenant Colonel Robin Lindsay, Commanding Officer, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, said he epitomised "everything that is excellent about the reserve forces".
"Private Bobby Hetherington was a thoughtful and humorous soldier who was always quick to find the fun in Army life and to keep the chain of command on our toes with his sharp wit and insightful mind," said Lt Col Lindsay. "He was gregarious and open and this made him a much-liked and respected member of his platoon and the battalion."
An investigation is under way into the incident, which is thought to have involved a particularly large bomb. A military source said: "If you build a big enough bomb it will overcome a Mastiff. It's just never been done before". But the source added that a solution would not necessarily be to make more heavily armoured vehicles, but to continue work to prevent attacks.