Tributes paid to Thames Valley Soldier

A bomb disposal expert from Bicester's 23 Pioneer Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps is being repatriated.

34 year old Warrant Officer Class 2 Charlie Wood was killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan and was the first British fatality after Christmas.

He will be flown into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, where a private service will be held before the cortege passes through nearby Wootton Bassett and onto the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where a post-mortem will take place.

Charlie was caught in a blast from an IED on December 28. Only a few days before his death he was organising the Christmas celebrations for his men.

WO2 Wood leaves his widow Heather, mother Barbara, father John and sisters Samantha and Amanda. His widow said her husband had also been her "best friend" , adding:

"Charlie had an infectious personality who made a positive effect on everyone he met; he had a heart of gold and endeared himself to everyone. He will be forever in our thoughts for the rest of our lives.''

On Christmas Day Charlie not only arranged a hot dinner for almost 150 soldiers, an appearance from Father Christmas and the giving of presents, but also co-ordinated the clearance of a 20kg improvised explosive device. He was leading the clearance of a route through the Khushdal Kalay area of the Helmand River Valley, with the task nearing completion, when he was killed.

The Middlesbrough football fan, who joined the Army in 1994 and had also served in Iraq and Bosnia, had raised thousands of pounds for forces charities. Colleagues have been describing him as a "huge character'' who volunteered for the job of advanced search adviser "in full knowledge of the potential risks'' .

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis, commanding officer of the Counter-IED Task Force, said:

"He was a huge character - a complete live wire - a man who never rested. He was always on the go, constantly thinking ahead, planning the next stage and working out how best to achieve the mission. And who did he do this for? Certainly not for himself; he did it for his men.''

A total of 349 UK military personnel have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001.

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