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Bodies of Dragoons killed in action to be flown home

PUBLISHED: 07:45 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 06 July 2010

Floral tributes to the Light Dragoons

Floral tributes to the Light Dragoons

Families of two Norfolk soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan this week will join their comrades in a repatriation ceremony at RAF Lyneham today.

The latest to be killed was named yesterday as Trooper Christopher Whiteside who was just weeks away from his 21st birthday.

Families of two Norfolk soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan this week will join their comrades in a repatriation ceremony at RAF Lyneham today.

The latest to be killed was named yesterday as Trooper Christopher Whiteside who was just weeks away from his 21st birthday.

Trooper Whiteside, from Blackpool, was a passionate fencer and had been hoping to take part in the GB fencing team in the 2012 Olympics in London.

He was an “incredibly gifted young soldier” and had been facing “an excellent career ahead of him in the Light Dragoons”, according to his troop leader.

He had been with the Light Dragoons for under a year and it was his first tour in Afghanistan.

Trooper Whiteside was killed near Gereshk in Helmand province on Tuesday. He was the third Light Dragoon to be killed in Afghanistan.

Trooper Whiteside, nicknamed Norm after Manchester United player Norman Whiteside, was part of the Light Dragoons Battle Group, which had begun work on July 3, as part of operation Panther's Claw, to clear Babji and Malgir of insurgents and to restore control before national elections in August .

Lt Charlie Dunn, a troop leader in Emsdorf troop, said: “I have no doubt in my mind in saying that he would have had an excellent career ahead of him in the Light Dragoons and it is a tragedy that a young and gifted life has been cut short.

“He was a lovely young man, a real asset to the troop and will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure to have known him.”

Trooper Whiteside had joined the army in 2005 as an Infanteer in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.

But after suffering a serious knee injury he was discharged. However, he rejoined fully fit as a formation reconnaissance soldier in the Light Dragoons last year.

Lt Col Gus Fair, commanding officer of the Light Dragoons, said he was an excellent soldier: “Fit, robust and determined, he had all the qualities that mark out a soldier of considerable promise.”

Comrades said he was shy at first but soon came out of his shell. Major Sam Plant, officer commanding C Squadron Light Dragoons, said: “He was quietly confident and blessed with a great sense of humour that endeared him to all.”

He was also very fit, showing others up in physical training sessions, but his passion in life was fencing, said Lt Col Dunn, and he had hoped to gain a place in the regimental army team on his return from Afghanistan.

The 700-strong Light Dragoons Battle Group is made up of about 350 Light Dragoons and members of 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment.

Trooper Whiteside had been part of Emsdorf troop, a Light Dragoons' troop operating in the dismounted role as a fires support group for A Company, 2 Mercian.

The bodies of L/Cpl David Dennis, of the Light Dragoons, and Trooper Whiteside will be returned to the UK today with a repatriation ceremony at RAF Lyneham, with comrades carrying them off the plane, followed by a procession in Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire.

Family and comrades of the soldiers were being transported from Swanton Morley to Wiltshire for the ceremony and procession.

They will then be taken to the Oxford coroner and funerals arranged. A service was held at the base on Wednesday night.

A total of 176 British servicemen and women have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001.

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