Service For Sapper Connor Ray

A Hampshire soldier who died after a bomb blast in Afghanistan is being remembered in a service today (Thursday 17th May).

Sapper Connor Ray was killed by a Taliban bomb in April, the day before his 21st birthday.

His funeral was held last week in Wales, but a service is today taking place in Bishopstoke near Eastleigh - where he grew up and some of his family still live.

Sapper Connor Ray, 20, of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) was given full military honours at his funeral at St Woolos Cathedral in Newport, south Wales.

He was injured during a search and clearance operation in the Nad-e Ali district of central Helmand near Checkpoint Kahmanan on April 11.

Sapper Ray was part of a mission to clear a compound previously used by insurgents, allowing local people to safely return to the area, when he was seriously injured in an IED blast.

He was taken to Camp Bastion Role 3 Hospital and later transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where he died on April 18, a day before his 21st birthday.

More than 500 people attended his funeral service last week.

Among those paying tribute was Sapper Ray's brother Vinnie, whose mother died of cancer in 2008, said: ''I always wanted to do whatever Connor was doing.

''He wasn't just my brother - he was my best friend.

''I wish it was me in that coffin and not him.

''I know you're up there with mum - tell her I love her.''

Sapper Ray began joined the army in 2008 - however, just as his new career began, his mother was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

She died before getting to witness her son take part in his passing-out parade.

A family spokesman added: ''She would have been very proud of him, knowing what a true gent and hero he turned out to be, as is the rest of the family.''

His commanding officer Simon Bell said Sapper Ray was irreplaceable member of his regiment - saying he had helped saved countless civilian lives in Afghanistan by locating numerous clandestine roadside bombs.

''This regiment has lost an inspiring young soldier, who was certainly going places,'' he added.

Sapper Ray leaves behind his brother Vinnie, sisters Hollie and Bonnie, stepfather Steve, grandparents Leo and Linda, and his girlfriend Hollie.