Tributes to Warminster soldiers killed in Afghanistan

This Is Wiltshire: Tributes to Warminster soldiers killed in Afghanistan Tributes to Warminster soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The families of two Warminster-based soldiers killed by a man dressed as a local Afghan policeman have paid tribute to their loved ones.

Married father-of-two Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18, were shot dead in the south of Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, on Saturday.

The soldiers served in 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's), based at Battlesbury Barracks, and the deaths came just days after soldiers from Corunna Company enjoyed an emotional return to Warminster after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, which saw six colleagues lose their lives in a bomb blast in March.

The men were killed at a checkpoint when a man dressed as a local Afghan policeman pretended to be injured so they would help him, defence sources said.

Sgt Thursby from Skipton, North Yorkshire, is survived by his wife Louise and two children, Joshua and Ruby.

His wife said: "Gareth was the love of my life. He was an amazing husband and father, happy, full of life and kind hearted with a passion for his work and family. He was brave, hard working, a loving husband who was a devoted father to his children. Our hero.”

Pte Wroe was deployed to Afghanistan on July 1, shortly after his 18th birthday. He is survived by his parents, Michael and Claire, and sister Demi, from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.

His family said in a statement: "Our son Thomas was a brave young soldier, who is loved by his family, girlfriend and friends.

"We can't believe you have been taken so soon from us. You will always be in our hearts for ever and ever.

"You would light up the room with your smile and bubbly personality. Our world will be a duller place without you. We are so proud of you son, on all you achieved and we are grateful for every special thing you gave us. We will always love you Tom."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I was saddened to hear of this cowardly act by a man wearing an Afghan local police uniform, which has taken the lives of two brave British soldiers.

"All of our thoughts are with the families of Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe. They gave their lives protecting Britain's national security, helping to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for international terrorism."

Sgt Thursby, who had completed tours of duty in Kosovo and Iraq, was nicknamed Bull because of his strength and confidence.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Stenning, said: "He was admired and deeply respected by his soldiers and peers for his soldiering skills, physical strength and forthright honesty. Utterly professional, his standards were legendary."

He added: "I heard just a few weeks ago that he had told his platoon to call him Dad during the tour. That is how he saw himself; a father figure for 30 men and women involved in gruelling operations in Helmand."

Pte Wroe, who joined the Army in September 2010, was praised for his professional skills and positive attitude.

His company commander, Major Finlay Bibby, said: "His confidence, sense of humour and ever present smile made him hugely popular and fun to be with."

He added: "He was an extremely talented soldier who was fulfilling his dream by serving with the battalion on operations, the same battalion that his father served with.

"I have no doubt that Private Wroe would have achieved great things in the Army."

Sargeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe will be remembered during a service of Evening Prayer in Warminster's Minster Church of Saint Deny's at 6pm this evening.  All are welcome to join in prayer and reflection.

The Ministry of Defence said an investigation was under way into the circumstances of the soldiers' deaths.

It has been a bloody few days in the war-torn country.

On Friday Lance Corporal Duane Groom, from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, died after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

On the same day two US Marines were killed during an attack on Camp Bastion.

And yesterday at least one Afghan police officer turned his gun on Nato troops at a remote checkpoint in the country's south, killing four American service members before escaping, according to Afghan and international officials.

The number of members of UK forces to have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 has been brought to 430.

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