Town in mourning after death of Paras

COLCHESTER is in mourning again after two soldiers based in the town were killed in Afghanistan in the space of 48 hours.

Annie Davidson

COLCHESTER is in mourning again after two soldiers based in the town were killed in Afghanistan in the space of 48 hours.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that a soldier from 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment was killed in an explosion as he carried out a routine patrol near Kajaki on Saturday.

It came less than 48 hours after the death of Private Jason Lee Rawstron, who was shot in the head during a firefight with the Taliban in Helmand Province on Friday. He was described as “a perfect son” by his heartbroken mother.

The second soldier to due is expected to due named today. His next of kin have been informed.

The latest deaths bring the number of Colchester-based soldiers killed during the current six-month tour to 11.

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Last night town's MP Bob Russell said his “thoughts and prayers” were with the families and friends of the men.

He said: “I am saddened to hear of the deaths of two more soldiers from the Colchester Garrison.

“My thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and comrades at this desperately difficult time.

“Having just returned from Helmand Province, where I met many of their colleagues from 16 Air Assault Brigade, I stress that they did not die in vain.

“As with others who have lost their lives, they died serving their country and their country's interests, and the interests of the democratic world and the people of Afghanistan whose country they are helping to reconstruct from the ravages of war.”

Paying tribute to Pte Rawstron, his platoon commander, Lieutenant Murray McMahon, said the 23-year-old, originally from Clayton-le-Moors in Lancashire, was “the most loyal and enthusiastic soldier I have ever known”.

Pte Rawstron's parents said that being a Para was “everything” to him.

In a statement, his mother, Mandy, said: “It is impossible to describe the loss of Jason.

“He was the perfect son, grandson, brother and boyfriend. He was blessed with so many friends and they will all miss him dearly.

“Jason touched all those that he met and the support and comfort from family and friends has been overwhelming.”

She continued: “Being a Para was everything to Jason. His determination and pride meant that he was a role model for all who knew him.

“We are all so proud of Jason and although he was taken from us after 23 years, they were 23 years of joy.

“We are able to take comfort knowing that he died doing a job that he loved, helping others and that he was amongst comrades who he regarded as brothers.”

His father, Gary, said: “I wish I could take Jason's place and have him home.”

Pte Rawstron joined the Army in October 2005 and quickly stood out as a soldier of note, the Ministry of Defence said.

He qualified as a Infantry Assault Engineer in 2007, after which he was attached to 7 Platoon and sent to Afghanistan.

Friends remembered him as a quiet man who was looked up to by others.

A mischievous side earned him a nickname of “Suspect” which was often shortened to “Sus”.

As well as his parents and brother Graham, Pte Rawstron leaves girlfriend Michaela, to whom he was said to be devoted.

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