Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Ambitious Hero Named

A British soldier who became the first to be killed in Afghanistan this year had always longed to be in the Army, say his family.

Private Robert Hayes, 19, of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in the Nad-e-Ali area of Helmand Province on Sunday afternoon.

Pte Hayes's family said becoming a soldier was his one ambition from childhood.

"Trying to express the true measure of our sorrow - and our sense of loss - at this time, is impossible," they said in a statement from the family home in Burnwell, Cambridgeshire.

"We are still coming to terms with this devastating news.

"However, we are strengthened by the thought that he was with his comrades, doing the job he so dearly loved, when his life was taken...

"Although he had an enthusiastic and energetic personality, our son could just as easily behave with the manners of a gentle, reflective, caring person.

"As a grieving family, we would ask that our privacy be respected. We also ask that our brave son's memory be duly honoured."

Pte Hayes also leaves his girlfriend, Gemma.

He had been in the Army for just over a year but his senior officers said he had already made a "real difference".

The young soldier deployed to one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan in October as part of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Battle Group.

Lieutenant Colonel James Woodham, commanding officer of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, known as the Vikings, said he was "shocked and saddened to the core".

"Robert's death leaves a huge hole in the Vikings' ranks," he said. "He will be remembered as a trusted member of the team, a young man whose energy for life was contagious, for his bravery and sense of humour.

"Robert was a young man who made a real difference in his short time with the battalion - he has been taken from us and we are all the poorer for his passing."

Major Christopher Davies, Pte Hayes's company commander, said he had become known across the battalion as "an extremely capable soldier, brave comrade and talented boxer".

"For over two months he was involved in heavy and relentless fighting against insurgents and always acted in a courageous, decisive and selfless manner," he said.

"The considerate way in which he interacted with the local population was synonymous with someone who was genuinely decent and wanted betterment for those less fortunate than himself."


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