Body of Kent Soldier Flown Home
The last words of the teenage soldier who was 250th member of the British armed forces to be killed during the Afghanistan conflict were to tell his mother he loved her, in a poignant tribute.
The body of 19 year old Rifleman Peter Aldridge from Folkestone has been flown home to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, along with another soldier.
As has become tradition, coffins carrying the bodies passed through the nearby town of Wootton Bassett, pausing at the war memorial, before they were sent on to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital for post-mortem examination.
Sunday 24th January
Rifleman Peter Aldridge, who was 19 and served with A Company 4 Rifles, was on his first tour of duty when he died in an explosion near Sangin, in central Helmand province, on Friday.
His family said he died a hero, adding: ``He was determined to get his first tour of duty under his belt. He believed in the Army and was proud of his job and we are so proud of you Peter.''
The teenager, from Folkestone, Kent, was serving as part of 3 Rifles Battle Group and was killed while on foot patrol as part of an operation to provide security for the local population in Sangin, the MoD said.
His death took the number of servicemen and women killed in the conflict to just five below the amount who died during the Falklands War in 1982.
In a statement released through the Ministry of Defence, Rfn Aldridge's family said: ``Our son died a hero, he lost his life doing what he believed in. Peter said, 'If I'm going to die I want to die a soldier'.'' The statement added: ``We love you sweet pea. Swift and Bold Forever.''
Rfn Aldridge, who had a girlfriend Jem and brother Matthew, ``made his mark from the outset'', his comrades said.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Jones, his commanding officer, said he was a ``natural leader'' in his platoon. He said: ``The less experienced riflemen respected and looked up to him as a role model. He was genuinely dedicated to being a rifleman and took great pride from it. Looking the part was important to him and he spent plenty of money on making sure that he did. It was clear from when he first arrived in the battalion that he was more comfortable in the field than in barracks and in Afghanistan his character really came to the fore.Rifleman Aldridge's section has had a particularly tough tour and his loss is a cruel blow to them, but also to all who knew him.''
The officer added poignantly: ``The last thing Rifleman Aldridge said to the medic treating him at the scene was to tell his mother that he loved her.''
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Kitson, the commanding officer of 3 Rifles Battle Group, added: ``So cruelly taken in his prime, having proven himself time and time again in the toughest of fights out here, he leaves us just as his promising military career was really getting under way. He has been at the forefront of a fierce, complex and highly taxing battle to provide security to an oppressed people, living in constant fear of abuse and intimidation by a ruthless, ignorant and self-centred enemy. Rifleman Aldridge's commitment and selfless determination has been exemplary throughout and stands as a shining testament to his memory, which we now honour. He was a rifleman of the highest quality and a true individual - a man in which our whole regiment can take great pride.''
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said his loss was a ``terrible blow'' for his family. He said: ``Rifleman Peter Aldridge was clearly an immensely well-liked and a talented, courageous soldier who be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. His death, while on an operation to improve security to the population of Sangin, will be a terrible blow for his family, friends and colleagues. My thoughts are with them at this difficult time.''