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23 November 2011, 12:51
A sergeant major described as one of the most talented soldiers of his generation was killed by a bomb as he took cover from enemy fire, an inquest has heard.
Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company Sergeant Major) Colin Beckett of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) in Colchester was killed in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province on February 5.
An inquest at Peterborough Town Hall today (Wednesday November 23rd) heard that another soldier was injured by a second bomb as troops tried to recover WO2 Beckett's body.
Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Kingsbury, who was a major at the time of the incident, told the inquest the patrol had been deployed to attract enemy fire and draw out insurgents.
As shots were fired, the majority of the patrol took cover near a mosque but three others, including WO2 Beckett, were forced into a ditch to provide protection.
He said they were in an area where the "perceived threat of direct fire'' was greater than the threat of improvised explosive devices (IED).
There was no reason to suspect an IED had been planted in the ditch so it had not been checked with metal detectors.
Lt Col Kingsbury said: "I was about 50 metres from the sergeant major and as we prepared to move off I heard an explosion and saw a plume of dust.
"It was immediately clear that he was dead.
"As one of our patrol moved into recover the body there was another explosion and I became aware another soldier had been injured.''
The patrol had been deployed on an operation to disrupt the movement of insurgents into Shaheed, a village on the Nahr-e-Bughra canal where C Company had been developing a protected community.
Peterborough coroner Gordon Ryall recorded a verdict of unlawful death while in active service.
He said: "It clearly was a very dangerous operation as their task was to flush out insurgents and deal with them.
"When the order came to move off, he stood on the device.
"It is trivial to say it was unlucky, but there was certainly an element of that.''
WO2 Beckett joined the army in 1990 and developed a specialisation in anti-tank command.
He was on his third tour of Afghanistan and had served in Northern Ireland and Kosovo.
Army colleagues described him as an "inspirational and iconic leader'' who had quickly risen through the ranks.
WO2 Beckett left behind his parents Del and Kim and his wife Rachel who gave birth to their first child shortly after WO2 Beckett's death.
His family did not speak as they left the inquest.
Lieutenant Colonel James Coates, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 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.''