Tributes to Kent based soldier

4 October 2010, 12:56 | Updated: 4 October 2010, 13:05

Rifleman Suraj Gurung from 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday 2 October 2010. The regiment has it's base at Folkestone

Rifleman Suraj, serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South), was killed during a follow-up foot patrol after an attack on his patrol base. He was caught in an explosion when a suicide bomber detonated himself and he was killed in action.

He died at the front of his platoon, leading the way as he had done for the previous six months.

Rifleman Suraj Gurung was 22 years old and born and raised in the hill town of Gorkha in Nepal. He passed the notoriously gruelling process for Gurkha selection into the British Army in December 2007; becoming the first member of his family to achieve this feat.

In early January 2008 he made the journey from the tranquil foothills of the Nepalese Himalaya to Catterick in North Yorkshire as a trainee Rifleman ready to begin the arduous months of Gurkha infantry training.

In October 2008 he completed this training and travelled to Brunei to join 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. As a result of his good command of English and his obvious intelligence he was immediately selected to be the Platoon Radio Operator. This position is normally reserved for a senior Rifleman and as such it was testament to the high regard in which he was held so early on in his career.

Rifleman Suraj returned to the United Kingdom in August 2009 and was selected as the lead man in his patrol, known as the vallon man, for the upcoming tour to Afghanistan. His ability had again been singled out.

He deployed on Op HERRICK 12 in April 2010 and even from the start of the tour he was always confident and calm under pressure. As a soldier he excelled here in Afghanistan. As the point man of every patrol he led his multiple unflinchingly across some of the most daunting and uncertain terrain, day after day, time after time.

For six months he had been finding IEDs and selecting safe routes, keeping those following behind safe.

Only recently married he leaves behind his wife and family in Nepal.

His family said:

"Our family is devastated with the news of Suraj's death in Afghanistan on 2 October 2010. He was a very caring son and loving husband. He followed his forefather's footsteps as both his grand father and father served with the British in India: and his father- in- law served in the British Army.

"He loved the army and was very proud to be a Gurkha: and died doing a job he loved. His family members are very proud of him."

"Rifleman Suraj was a loyal, happy and well disciplined man. He served with a positive attitude and all members of the Company are struck with the grief at his passing."

Lieutenant Colonel G M Strickland MBE, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Combined Forces Nahr-e Saraj South said:

"Rifleman Suraj Gurung was the Vallon man for my Tactical Headquarters Team. Throughout this tour, he led the way through areas of high Improvised Explosive Device risk with fortitude and courage. Never once did he complain or shy away from his duty, despite the fact that his team had suffered a partial detonation of one device and found several others during their time in Afghanistan.

"This was his first operational tour. It is telling that when we trawled the battalion for photographs of Suraj, the ones that came forward showed him with his arms around groups of grinning local children. He had a good heart, and was here to help the Afghan people.

"He was a very fine Gurkha soldier; tough but compassionate, and always there for others. To all around him he was a source of strength. His ready smile is now gone from us, but his memory remains. We mourn his passing, and share in the grief of his family who have lost a very special man. I am intensely proud to have served with him."