SOUTH Yorkshire soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan have said the death of five colleagues will not stop them doing their duty.
Five members of the Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, along with Sergeant Nigel Coupe, from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, were killed when their armoured vehicle was caught in an explosion in southern Afghanistan.
The members of 3 Yorks were part of an advanced party deployed last month, with the rest of the battalion joining them in the coming weeks.
Last week, they were out on Salisbury Plain taking part in an exercise to mark the culmination of nine months’ training.
Private Craig Taylor, 21, from Doncaster said: “Obviously it’s going to be in the back of our minds, your mates getting killed in action and all that, but we need to do the job and that’s what they would have wanted us to do.
“All the lads are devastated, it hits them hard straight away, but we can’t just stop now, if we stop now they’re gone for nothing.”
Private Lee Tomlinson, also aged 21, from Dinnington, said: “Morale hit rock bottom for a bit but I’m positive and we are a strong battalion and we pull through the bad times.
“I’m a bit anxious about the tour, but at the end of the day I have a job to do and we are all fully-motivated and determined.”
Pte Tomlinson is hitting the ground running in his Army career, starting the build-up to Afghanistan having only just completed his initial training after joining up for the second time last year.
He said: “The past nine months have been quite challenging.
“We have taken part in a range of exercises in Kent, Norfolk and this one on Salisbury Plain.
“This is my second time in the Army - I originally signed up in 2007 but was medically-discharged the next year.
“I ended up working in Tesco but rejoined last year, completing basic training in July before joining the battalion in August and we were straight into training for Afghanistan.”
And his younger brother is also preparing for Afghanistan.
Private Jamie Tomlinson has been in the Army for three years, but only turns 20 next month.
Lee said: “He’ll be celebrating his birthday on tour.”
The two lads are heading off to war leaving behind mum, Nina, dad, Adrian - who served in the Royal Navy in the first Gulf War - and little sister Hallie, 14.
Lee said the family, and his girlfriend, Nicola West, are all ‘proud’ they are going off to serve their country.
Captain Chris Ibbotson, spokesman for the Yorkshire Regiment’s Third Battalion - formerly the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment - said: “Although it can be common for brothers or fathers and sons to serve together, it is not that common in our battalion.”
“The training soldiers have undertaken has covered everything from very basic skills to language, culture and how to deal with improvised explosive devices.
“The guys have a series of final tests in the coming days and will then spend a well-earned week or two with their families before deployment.”
■ 3 Yorks are being joined on the deployment from April to October by other regiments recruiting from South Yorkshire including Third Battalion The Rifles and the Light Dragoons.