Tributes to ‘one of our finest soldiers’

FAMILY and colleagues have paid moving tributes to Suffolk soldier who was killed in a grenade attack in Afghanistan, saying he was “destined for the very top”.

Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate, of Lavenham, near Sudbury, was fatally wounded near Sangin just days before he was due to end his tour and return home to Suffolk.

The 27-year-old, who went to Great Cornard Upper School before joining the Army, had miraculously survived a “friendly fire” incident in 2003.

His parents, including mother Sue, who lives in Bolton Street, Lavenham, and three sisters released a statement following the tragedy on Friday afternoon.

“The family are immensely proud to have had a son, brother and friend who was so brave and dedicated to his career,” they said.

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“We feel so very, very lucky to have had Jo in our lives.

“He was more than just a professional soldier, he was a friendly young man with immense charisma, humour and artistic flair whose laid back manner belied a great strength of character. Jo was self-disciplined, focused and carried out his duty to the very best of his abilities.”

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L/Cpl Woodgate was named hours after another British soldier, from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Woodgate was born in Bury St Edmunds and moved to Lavenham with his mother as a young teenager before joining the Army Foundation College in 2001. After completing his training, he moved to Windsor and joined D Squadron, Household Cavalry Regiment. He is the third serviceman from the town to be killed in Afghanistan in four months, following the deaths of Royal Anglian soldier Lance Corporal Adam Drane, 23, shortly before Christmas and Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, 20, who was attached to RAF Honington, last month.

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Fullerton, commanding officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment, said: “L/Cpl of Horse ‘Jo’ Woodgate was one of our finest soldiers.

“Known affectionately by his friends and comrades as Woody, he was hugely popular, tremendously capable and a truly consummate, professional warrior.”

Lt Col Fullerton said L/Cpl Woodgate was “a young man who was destined for the very top” and had risen rapidly through the ranks.

“He thrived on what his career offered him and he was clearly a young leader who had far to go.”

He had spent the last six months in Helmand province and was on his fourth operational tour when he was killed.

Lt Col Fullerton added: “It is a cruel blow that he was killed so near to the end of this tour. Words cannot express how much he will be missed.

“Our thoughts are with his mother Susan and his family at this most tragic time.”

L/Cpl Woodgate was serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Commanding officer Major Gus MacGillivray said: “His loss is tragic and his family, friends and all of us feel it more keenly so very close to the end of the tour, during which he had become like a brother to those around him.”

L/Cpl Woodgate is the first member of the Household Cavalry Regiment to be killed in Afghanistan this tour. A total of 278 British troops have died in the Afghan conflict since operations began in 2001.

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