Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Death of first British female soldier: She was a truly special person who died a hero

The death last Tuesday of Sarah Bryant, the first British woman soldier to be killed in action in Afghanistan, capped one of the worst fortnights for the Army since troops were deployed to the country in 2001.

Corporal Bryant, 26, died when the Snatch Land Rover she was travelling in was hit by a roadside bomb. Three of her colleagues were also killed in the blast: Corporal Sean Reeve, 28, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, 39, and Paul Stout, 31. Their deaths followed those of five paratroopers the previous week.



The men who died on Tuesday near Lashkar Gah were from the reserve special forces. Cpl Bryant, a member of the 15 Psychological Operations Group in the Intelligence Corp, dominated the headlines.



Tributes poured in for the soldier who was pictured on her wedding day two years ago, smiling radiantly with a glass of champagne in one hand.



The Pashtu speaker had been in Helmand Province since March, monitoring Taliban mobile communications and searching and interrogating female prisoners.



Her widower, Corporal Carl Bryant, also 26, said of his wife, who was due to be promoted to sergeant: "Although I am devastated beyond words at the death of my beautiful wife, I am so incredibly proud of her. She... died doing the job she loved. My wife knew the risks; she was... a truly special person who died a hero."



Her father, Desmond Feely, added: "She loved her job and loved the Army."



Mr Feely was not the only parent to be bereaved this week, however, although the families of the other soldiers who died were less comfortable talking to the media.



Lance Corporal Larkin, a medic, was about to quit the Army for the sake of his wife and children – a toddler son and twins, according to reports.



A simple statement from his family said: "Lance Corporal Richard Larkin was a beloved husband, father, son and brother whose tragic and untimely death will be deeply mourned by his family, friends and colleagues."



Paul Stout's family said he was "a loving father and devoted husband", adding: "He was a wonderful son and brother and will be greatly missed by all his family and friends. Our lives will be changed for ever by this loss."



And Corporal Reeve's family statement described him as a "pillar of strength". "A dearly loved son, brother, godparent, uncle, grandson, and friend, who was loving, loyal, honourable, selfless and gentle," it said.



The three men were attached to 23 SAS, and it is believed that they had a role in training the Afghan police.



Their deaths have once again focused attention on the use of the unarmoured Snatch Land Rover, so called after its use in picking up terrorist suspects on the streets of Northern Ireland.



The Ministry of Defence has been criticised by experts who say the vehicle is totally inadequate because it offers practically no defence against roadside bombs.



Thirty-four soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan from roadside bombs targeted at the vehicle.

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