Three Scots-based soldiers killed in Afghanistan bomb blast named

The Ministry of Defence has named three Scottish-based soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Corporal William Savage, 30, Fusilier Samuel Flint, 21, and Private Robert Hetherington, 25, died while on patrol in Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province.

Their heavily armoured Mastiff vehicle struck an "improvised explosive device" on Tuesday. They received immediate medical attention and were evacuated by air to the Military Hospital at Camp Bastion, but could not be saved.

The MoD said the men's next of kin had been informed. Six other soldiers were injured in the blast.

Cpl Savage and Fusilier Flint were serving with The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots), while Pte Hetherington was with 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (7 Scots), but had been mobilised with 2 Scots in November.

Cpl Savage, from Irvine, was due to become a father for the first time. His wife, Lyndsey, said she was "completely devastated" but "extremely proud" of her husband, who "loved being a soldier".

The men were part of a patrol travelling along Route 611 between Forward Operating Base Ouellette and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai in Nahr-e-Saraj when their vehicle was attacked.

It is believed to be the worst incident involving Scottish soldiers serving in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

It is also the first time troops have been killed by an IED attack while travelling in one of the 23-tonne Mastiffs.

Officials are looking into whether insurgents are designing bigger bombs aimed at piercing the Mastiff's heavy armour.

The 2 Scots battalion is based at the Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, Midlothian. About 350 soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers were deployed to Afghanistan in March to start a six-month operational tour of Helmand.

'Exceptional soldier'

Lieutenant Colonel Robin Lindsay, Commanding Officer, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, paid tribute to each of the men in turn.

He said: "We will remember Corporal William Savage as an exceptional soldier, a dedicated leader and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

"He was a classic example of a Scottish infantryman; robust, committed and blessed with a fine line in banter."

Lt Col Lindsay said Fusilier Flint, originally from Blackpool, Lancashire, was "brimming with skill and ability".

"He approached everything he did with total motivation and it was clear that his ability matched his ambition," he said. "A bright future lay ahead for Fusilier Flint and it is cruel to see that future taken away from him."

Lt Col Lindsay described US-born Pte Hetherington as epitomising "everything that is excellent about the reserve forces".

He said: "Private Bobby Hetherington was a thoughtful and humorous soldier who was always quick to find the fun in Army life and to keep the chain of command on our toes with his sharp wit and insightful mind."

A statement by the Flint-Broughton family said: "The whole family is completely devastated.

"Everyone should know that Sam loved his job and made his whole family and everyone that knew him very proud."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of these soldiers, each highly praised and respected by their colleagues and commanders.

"It is clear from the tributes paid to them that they were exceptional men who served their country with distinction. "My thoughts go out to the families and friends of these brave men at this very difficult time."

Brigadier Rupert Jones MBE, Commander Task Force Helmand, said: "The loss of these three brave Scottish soldiers comes as a great blow to everyone in the Task Force, but leaves us all the more determined in our task to do justice to their memory.

"Their families are in our thoughts and I hope that they can draw a little comfort from the affection in which Corporal Savage, Fusilier Flint and Private Hetherington were held by their brothers in arms and from the courage they displayed."

'Very high price'

Prime Minister David Cameron said the country had paid a "very high price" for the work it was doing in Afghanistan.

But he said that work was "vital" in making sure the country "doesn't again become a haven for terrorists".

"It is important work because it's vital that country doesn't again become a haven for terrorists, terrorists that can threaten us here in the UK. But today our thoughts should be with the families and friends of those that have suffered."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This is tragic news and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the soldiers who have been lost.

"This incident demonstrates once again the dangers faced by our armed forces, often on a daily basis, and they deserve our deepest gratitude and respect for the job they do in some of the most difficult and trying circumstances imaginable.

"No words can truly bring comfort to the families at a time like this, but the thoughts and prayers of everyone in Scotland will be with them upon hearing this dreadful news."

In 2007, the UK Government under Labour ordered 140 Mastiffs for the Army as they were deemed to offer high levels of protection against mines and roadside bombs.

Earlier on Wednesday, former Army chief of staff Lord Dannatt told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "The Taliban have found a way of countering the protective qualities and characteristics of the Mastiff.

"It would seem that this was an extremely large bomb that was so powerful that actually it was able to cause fatalities within the vehicle itself.

"I've not seen a technical report but my understanding in talking to the Ministry of Defence is that in all probability it was a very large device in terms of the amount of explosive and it may well have physically lifted up the vehicle and possibly even turned it over."

The deaths take the number of UK service members who have lost their lives since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 to 444. Six have now died in 2013.

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