Light Dragoon 'Duke' died saving his wounded comrades

A Norfolk-based soldier nick-named Duke was hailed a hero last night after it emerged he had selflessly sacrificed his life to save injured comrades from a war zone.

A Norfolk-based soldier nick-named Duke was hailed a hero last night after it emerged he had selflessly sacrificed his life to save injured comrades from a war zone.

Lance Corporal David Dennis was killed just as he had secured a helicopter landing site so that soldiers wounded in a major land assault could be taken out of the battlefield in the war-torn Helmand province of Afghanistan.

He had been due to marry his fianc�e who lives locally on return from what was his second tour of duty.

As tributes poured in to the 29-year-old, hundreds of his colleagues from the Swanton Morley-based Light Dragoons continued fighting a major land assault in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

More than 700 British soldiers from the Light Dragoons and 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment are taking part in the third wave of Operation Panther's Claw in an area north of Lashkar Gah involving a total of about 3,000 troops.

The operation has been described as the most strategically important yet mounted by the British in the past three years.

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L/Cpl Dennis, from Llanelli in South Wales, is the second Light Dragoon to have been killed in five weeks and one of three soldiers killed at the weekend.

He was on foot and had just helped secure a helicopter landing site so casualties could be airlifted away for treatment when he was killed by an improvised explosive device.

As part of The Light Dragoons' Command Troop he was responsible for ensuring radio communications for the Commanding Officer's tactical headquarters, both on foot and on vehicles.

Colleagues said Duke, who had made Norfolk his own while serving with the Light Dragoons, was quietly spoken but of fearsome strength and 'one of the good guys in life'.

Captain David Ansell, the Regimental Signals Officer, said: "Duke was a dedicated soldier and an absolute rock. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him, whether it be at work or for his friends.

'One of life's real characters, he was fiercely proud of his Welsh roots and always to be found in the thick of things.'

He had made his home in Norfolk, base of the Light Dragoons.

Corporal Tony Duncan, on behalf of his friends from Command Troop, said: "Duke was one of the most loved guys in the Regiment and a character that will never be replaced.

"Duke was a man that every soldier should aspire to be. He was quick thinking, hard working, strong, selfless, courageous and had a great sense of humour. Most of all he was well respected and loyal to all those around him. Our friend Duke will never be forgotten."

L/Cpl Dennis joined the Army in 2003 as a gunner in the Royal Artillery before joining King's Troop. He was attached to the Light Dragoons for a six month tour in Iraq in 2005 and joined the regiment in 2006.

He was known for his rugby skills and as a small arms instructor and he had hoped to serve in the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in the future.

A second soldier killed the same day, in a separate incident, was yesterday named as Private Robert Laws, 18, from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

A third soldier from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in the same area on Sunday.

Yesterday, the bodies of Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, the most senior British Army officer to be killed since the Falklands War, and Trooper Joshua Hammond, of 2nd Tank Regiment, were flown back to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire after both were killed in the same explosion in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

It brings the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 174 and comes just over a month after fellow Light Dragoon 28-year-old Nigel Moffett was killed on deployment there.