Tributes to Norfolk soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Ian ClarkeGlowing tributes were today paid to two soldiers - one from Norfolk and the other based at an Army barracks in the county - who have been killed in Afghanistan.Ian Clarke

Glowing tributes were today paid to two soldiers - one from Norfolk and the other based at an Army barracks in the county - who have been killed in Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Nigel Moffett, from Belfast, who was based with the Light Dragoons at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, and Cpl Stephen Bolger, whose family home is in the Cromer area and was with the Parachute Regiment, died while on operations in Musa Qala in Helmand province on Saturday morning.

Mr Moffett's father, also called Nigel, said: 'Nigel felt he was prepared for operations in that he was well trained and had the right tools for the job. Both he and his family understood that ultimately he could die although we didn't want this to happen. Ultimately, Nigel was a soldier.'

In a statement released through the Ministry of Defence, Mr Bolger's family said: 'We can take some comfort knowing that he died amongst friends, doing something he loved and believed in. We are all immensely proud of him.'

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Mr Moffett, a 28-year-old known as Moff who had lost his mother, and Mr Bolger were killed in the same explosion.

Mr Bolger's commanding officer, whose identity has also been kept secret, said: 'Stephen was, quite simply, an extraordinary man doing an extraordinary job.

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'He embodied a life based on service to others, duty and self-sacrifice - the life of a soldier. He chose this life and lived it with a passion; he died prematurely, but he died doing what he loved.'

Mr Bolger's family added: 'Stephen was a wonderful first born son, brother to two and friend to many; he was dearly loved and will be sorely missed. Stephen was always happy, caring and generous and we are sure that those fortunate enough to have known him will share in the loss we are now feeling.'

Mr Moffett had served in Afghanistan and Iraq since joining the Light Dragoons in 2003.

He was a fitness enthusiast who boxed, cross country skied, hill-walked and played rugby, the MoD said.

Mr Moffett will be remembered as a 'tough, brave soldier who was an excellent member of the team from the outset,' his colleagues added.

His father said: 'He was a gentle soul and the eldest son. He had seven brothers and sisters and his late mother always said he was the most fantastic son and he was her right arm in bringing up his siblings.

'Nigel was a career solider who wanted to make the army his focus throughout his entire career. He made his army his home and the army treated him like their son.

'Nigel felt he was prepared for operations in that he was well trained and had the right tools for the job.'

Colleagues said he had fought bravely in many engagements with the enemy, beginning with an advance against an enemy stronghold on April 23.

On May 15, his troop was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire and L/Cpl Moffett rose to the challenge and mounted his GPMG on a rooftop, returning fire and giving his troop the breathing space to win the firefight.

Mr Moffett's commanding officer, Lt Col Gus Fair, said he 'lived and breathed soldiering, and devoted himself to it.'

He added: 'His dedication, fitness and sheer enjoyment of his work marked him out as a star of the future and a role model to the junior soldiers. He died at the top of his game and showed all the potential of realising his ambition of serving as a badged member of UK Special Forces.

'Moff made sure that he never wasted a moment of his life - he wanted to see as much of the world as he could and experience everything it had to offer. He was one of the very best, and the regiment will not forget his sacrifice.

Lt Col Fair added: 'He relished a challenge; on physical training he would make sure that he was carrying more weight than anyone else, and preferably complete it faster than anyone else. It was not unusual to see him in camp during leave just so that he could conduct some extra training.

'He relished his role as a physical training instructor and was always the first to volunteer for a course or adventurous training. His dedication, fitness and sheer enjoyment of his work marked him out as a star of the future and a role model to the junior soldiers.

'Today, the BRF have lost a brave soldier and brother in arms. He lived and died for his comrades."

Major Neil Grant, of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force, added: 'As strong as an ox, L/Cpl Moffett was an exceptionally physically fit and robust soldier. He had many other attributes. He was charming

and funny, with a natural Irish wit, which both helped him and got him into trouble, in equal measure.

'He was courageous under fire, and showed a streak of tenacity of which we in the BRF are immensely proud.'

Officer Commanding, C Squadron, The Light Dragoons, Major Sam Plant said: 'Always on the look out for a challenge, Moff was everything that a recce soldier should be - resourceful, inquisitive, brave and determined, equally happy in both the mounted and dismounted roles.

'Moff will be hugely missed by all ranks of C Sqn, The Light Dragoons. He was universally respected as a soldier and a great friend to all of us. His personal fitness was nothing short of legendary and he set the standards in this department across the regiment.

'At the time of his death, he was knocking on the door of promotion and, in the rank of Cpl; he would have made an outstanding formation reconnaissance vehicle commander.'

Company Sgt Major, Brigade Reconnaissance Force, WO2 Martyn Chatterley said: 'He was quick witted and an instant character. He was quickly nicked named 'The Lung' for his outstanding ability to run the whole company into the ground.

'He had a flare for reconnaissance work with great spirit and a professional attitude; a man who would volunteer no matter what the task.'

Squadron Sergeant Major, C Squadron, The Light Dragoons, WO2 David Rae said: 'LCpl Moffett was an outstanding soldier. It seems by looking back at his achievements and his attitude to his choice of career that maybe he was always destined to be a soldier, he was a natural but stood out amongst others with his dedication to becoming the best he could be.

'Moff was a true soldier and a loyal friend. He was an inspiration to the rest of the regiment and showed this by being at the front with the BRF.'

Defence Secretary John Hutton said: 'L/Cpl Moffett and Cpl Bolger paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, protecting the security of our nation.

'The comments of their comrades make clear that these two young men were soldiers of unusual determination and ability. This is a terribly sad loss for the armed forces, and I can only express my deepest sympathy to their grieving families.'

The deaths took the number of British service personnel who have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001 to 165.

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