Afghanistan: SA-born soldier killed

2011-07-19 00:00

A YOUNG South African who always wanted to be a soldier has become the latest member of the British Army to be killed in Afghanistan.

An Afghan soldier allegedly shot Lance Corporal Paul Watkins (24) dead on Saturday morning.

Watkins, originally from Port Elizabeth, joined the British Army as a Commonwealth soldier in 2007.

He was serving with the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’).

Watkins was on patrol with his unit’s advisory team and an Afghan army unit in an area west of Gereshk in central Helmand province, providing covering fire for the group and maintianing radio communications with their base.

The British Army communication division said he was observing the group from his Jackal armoured vehicle. The patrol was almost over and the group were returng to the vehicle when they were fired on with small arms.

In the ensuing firefight Watkins was fatally wounded.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Purbrick, spokesperson for Operation Helmand, said the allegation that Watkins was shot by an Afghan soldier is being investigated by a jount British and Afghan team.

Watkins had been depoloyed in Afghanistan since March as part of the Mercian Regiment (Staffords).

“Watkins joined the Royal Lancers directly after basic training in 2007. He was known as a determined and intelligent soldier and was also a sharpshooter,” the British Army said in a statement.

During his four years of service he also served in a training and mentoring team in Iraq.

The statement said he is survived by his mother and father, Jill and Rod, and two brothers, Luke and Simon.

His family said in a statement that Watkins had wanted to be a soldier since he was a boy. “He was so proud to be a soldier and to make a contribution to peace in Afghanistan,” they said.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel William Fooks, said Watkins was an adventurous young man who was well liked by his colleagues in Germany, where the regiment is based, and in Helmand.

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