Tributes to soldier

PUBLISHED: 14:29 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:38 07 July 2010

A Royal Anglian soldier dubbed “one of the finest of his generation” was killed by a Taliban bomb while travelling in a convoy in Afghanistan, an inquest was told on Tuesday.

A Royal Anglian soldier dubbed “one of the finest of his generation” was killed by a Taliban bomb while travelling in a convoy in Afghanistan, an inquest was told on Tuesday.

The coroner's inquest in Norwich heard from comrades who had been travelling with L/Cpl Alex Hawkins, of Beetley, at the time of the blast. They recalled chaotic scenes in the immediate aftermath and the desperate attempts to save his life.

Afterwards, regimental sergeant major Ian Robinson described the 22-year-old as an outstanding young man who should make his “county, regiment and family proud”. He was serving in the Helmand province on a mission to protect a crucial power installation.

The day before his death on July 25 last year, he had helped to deliver supplies to fellow soldiers in the nearby green zone. He was among soldiers who stayed the night in the zone before travelling back along the same route at first light.

L/Cpl Hawkins was in the middle of the convoy in an armoured Vector vehicle. The troops were about 10 minutes into their journey when the explosion occurred.

Pte Michael Smith, who was one of the two backseat passengers, described a “loud ringing” noise followed by a “sudden jolt” as the device detonated. Pte Harrison McCabe, who also walked away from the blast, said: “I just heard a loud explosion. Immediately, smoke just poured in.”

Both men managed to clamber out of the vehicle to help L/Cpl Hawkins, who was wearing body armour and a helmet. He was taken by helicopter to a military hospital at Camp Bastion but died from head and neck injuries.

Ben Onslow, a civilian officer with the army's defence and support group, said a crater left by the detonation suggested it had been a “large device”.

Coroner William Armstrong said the only comfort was that a post-mortem examination found L/Cpl Hawkins was rendered unconscious by the blast and died painlessly shortly after.

Mr Armstrong recorded a verdict that L/Cpl Hawkins was killed unlawfully while on military duty.

He said the inquest had highlighted the “demands, risks and dangers” confronted by soldiers on the front line which were difficult for members of the public to comprehend. “It is a cruel fact that a life with very great promise was cut short,” he said.

After the inquest, Sgt Maj Robinson read a statement on behalf of the Hawkins family. He said: “They welcome the finding that Alex was killed as a result of enemy action last year. He died doing a job he loved, surrounded by his friends.

“He was an outstanding soldier for the short time he was with us and had an outstanding future ahead of him.”

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