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Penicuik Mourns Fallen Soldiers

Three soldiers, named as Corporal William Savage, Fusilier Samuel Flint and Private Robert Hetherington, from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who are based at Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, have been killed after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Helmand Province.

The soldiers were on routine patrol on Route 611 in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province yesterday (April 30) when their armed vehicle hit an improvised explosive device by the roadside.

The injured who were immediately treated, were evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital in Camp Bastion. Unfortunately the three NATO soldiers died from the injuries they sustained.

They were travelling in a Mastiff six wheeled armored vehicle that had been designed to withstand such an incident however it is known now that the vehicle failed to protect the passengers, of which six were injured and three were killed. For the vehicle to have been impacted so severly, it is estimated that the power of the IED had been so great that the Mastiff was rolled onto its roof.

The soldiers killed in action have been confirmed as Corporal William Savage and Fusilier Samuel Flint of 2Scots and Private Robert Hetherington of 7Scots. A further six servicemen have been injured and are being treated in Birmingham. Nine Afghani locals were also killed in the explosions.

Corporal William Savage died aged 30 and was originally from Irvine in the west of Scotland. After enlisting in 2003, the corporal participated in many missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was an avid sportsman who was especially enthusiastic about skiing. His wife said:

I have lost the love of my life and the father of our son. I know his life will live on through so many amazing memories that we shared together. He will be deeply missed amongst family, friends and the Regiment.

Fusilier Samuel Flint died aged 21, 20 days shy of his twenty-second birthday. The fusilier was originally from Blackpool. In his free time he socialised in Edinburgh or he returned to see family in his home town. Flint was also a great motorsport fan who also enjoyed supporting Manchester City. His family has expressed their fond memories of him:

Sam was always the life and soul of the party, a real ladies man, witty funny, the real cheeky chappy. He was a loving son, the protective brother, courageous nephew, the caring uncle, the loyal grandson that anyone would wish to have.

Private Robert Hetherington was born in 1987 in the United State of America however he was raised in Scotland. He joined the territorial army in 2006 . The private was also a keen sportsmen who represented Scotland at lacrosse. His commanding officer 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. He was gregarious and open and this made him a much liked and respected member of his Platoon and the Battalion.

The number of killed servicemen now stands at 444. Six of those deaths have occurred this year. These recent deaths mean that over the last six months, Penicuik has seen four local servicemen lose their life in Afghanistan, with the first  being Sir Walter Barrie in November of last year.

David Cameron has expressed his tributes to the fallen:

[it is] a reminder of the high price we have paid as a country to help give this country a chance of safety and security in the future.

The first minister has also expressed his sympathies to the affected families:

This is tragic news and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the soldiers who have been lost.

It is claimed that this IED explosion has come as part of a ‘Spring Offensive’ launched by the Talliban. WHilst previous statements have been made before, this has been the most prolofic for the town, and Scotland, since the war began in 2001.

A Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Major Richard Morgan, has said that the deaths of the local servicemen is “a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand”, the taskforce which was created with the purpose of training Afghani locals so that they had the experience to continue to defend their country upon the final combat British soldiers leaving in 2014:

It is with deep sadness that I must confirm that 3 soldiers from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, have died after their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. Their deaths come as a great loss to all those serving in Task Force Helmand. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to their family and friends at this difficult time.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said:

Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones in this incident, which underlines the threats faced by our personnel as they continue to hand over security operations to their Afghan counterparts ahead of UK combat operations concluding by the end of next year.

Security in Helmand, where most UK forces are based, is steadily improving with Afghan forces already responsible for the bulk of the province – but the environment in which our troops operate remains risky and dangerous, including the threat of improvised explosive devices and insurgent attack.

We will continue to do all we can to minimise these risks but they can never be removed entirely.

2Scots were deployed last month from Glencorse Barracks to help aid the transition process to allow Afghanistan security services to takeover upon the departure of British troops by the end of 2014.

Investigations will now be undertaken to establish how the vehicle, renowned for its protection capabilities, failed to save the three Penicuik based soldiers.