Kirkby soldier Adrian Sheldon dies in Afghanistan explosion

ONE of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours has been named as Kirkby's Adrian Sheldon (25) - described by his grieving family as a 'hero'.

Rifleman Adrian Sheldon was serving with 2nd Battalion The Rifles in Sangin, Helmand, and died when his Jackal patrol vehicle was struck by an explosive device.

See this week's Chad for a full tribute from Adrian's family

The incident follows on from the death of a Black Watch soldier from 2 Rifles, who was shot on Thursday during a patrol, and the deaths of two more British soldiers, killed during a suicide attack on the same day.

His family - parents, Mark and Diane Sheldon, and his younger sister Amy, from Beulah Road - said: "Adrian was our son, best mate, our hero, the light of our lives has gone out and never to be replaced."

His commanding officer Lt Col Rob Thomson said Adrian was 'a rock' and 'one of what I call my 'Mansfield gang' (with) he was an enviable depth and maturity to his character, which drew Riflemen of all ranks to him'.

And Major Iain Moodie, Officer Commanding B Company, 2 Rifles, added another tribute, saying: "His quick and dry wit underpinned everything and it was always great fun to be in his presence."

Adrian, an avid Mansfield Town FC fan, was also a Manchester United supporter and liked rugby, socialising with friends and watching sport on TV, in particular darts.

Rifleman Sheldon, known as 'Shelly' Sheldon, first joined the Battalion in March 2001, after completing training at the Army Foundation College Harrogate and the Infantry Training Centre Catterick.

He served on operations in Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. He then left the Army, 'to try something else', and worked in IT Recruitment and for a driving agency.

But he soon returned to the Battalion in time to begin pre-deployment training for Afghanistan.

He served in 8 Platoon, the Fire Support Platoon in B Company, 2 Rifles.

An MOD statement added: "A Rifleman first and foremost, he was a well-qualified driver and, got stuck in to the task of learning the JACKAL, the vehicle he was to drive in Afghanistan.

"He set about learning his new job at the double and with an enviable alacrity. When not driving the JACKAL, he also took his place in a Rifle Section as Machine Gunner."

Many tributes have already been paid to the Rifleman from the Army.

Lt Col Rob Thomson, CO 2 Rifles Battle Group North, said: "Rifleman Sheldon was one of those 'rocks' in my Fire Support Groups. Deeply experienced on operations and in life, he was an outstanding role model to all of us who count it a privilege to have served alongside him.

"He was a master of his trade and, like his brother Riflemen, he was thriving here in North Helmand; he was at the very forefront of his Company's operations to make a difference for the people of Afghanistan .

"One of what I call my 'Mansfield gang', he was not a noisy Rifleman like some but there was an enviable depth and maturity to his character, which drew Riflemen of all ranks to him.

"He is sorely missed. But I know that our grief is nothing compared to that which his devoted parents and sister will be enduring. They are firmly front and centre of our thoughts and prayers at this unimaginably difficult time.

"His fellow Riflemen are back in action and I know that Rifleman Sheldon, such was his commitment, would have been the first to order the Bugle Major to 'Sound the Advance'."

And Major Iain Moodie, Officer Commanding B Company, 2 Rifles, added: "Rifleman Sheldon, although new to B Company, arrived back as an old friend to the Battalion and quickly settled in. His quiet, self-effacing manner and cheeky grin often masked his maturity, experience and wisdom, but never his dry sense of humour.

"He was a hugely experienced Rifleman - in support weapons, as a driver and in life. He slipped back into soldiering naturally after his short stint in 'civvie street', as if he was back home. He relished the challenge of operating in Afghanistan and loved being surrounded by fellow Riflemen.

"He was a hugely competent and experienced driver, as well as a Machine Gunner when on foot. His calmness under pressure and steady hand was always welcome to the more junior members of the Company.

"His quick and dry wit underpinned everything and it was always great fun to be in his presence. No matter what the rank, a quickfire ribbing and a big grin was always the approach from him.

"We are all grieving in FOB Inkerman with him gone – we have lost a brother. But what we are feeling, we know, is nothing compared to that which his family are going through.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents and sister during this tragic time. Tomorrow we will go on with our mission, mindful of our tragic loss, but galvanised to do the job we have been sent here to do. We do this with the knowledge that Shelly would have wanted it no other way."

Colour Sgt Bell, Fire Support Group (FSG) 2nd in Command (2IC), B Company, 2 Rifles, added his tribute

:

"I was very fortunate to serve with Shelly on Op TELIC 2 in Iraq. He was an excellent soldier who relished the challenge of operations, surrounded by his mates.

"He left the Army but soon re-enlisted, and, fortunately for us, civvie-street did not remove his dry sense of humour. Shelly was great for keeping up morale with his dry sense of humour and he was never shy of cracking jokes.

"In addition to his quick wit, he was very quick to get to work and understood the seriousness of our job. His experience meant that he was an 'old hand' and his judgement and common-sense approach was respected by all. His death has come as a massive blow to the Platoon.

"We all grieve the death of a great friend, a soldier but, more so, a brother Rifleman.

"Once a Rifleman, always a Rifleman - Swift and Bold."

Second Lt Tom Parry, Platoon Commander, B Company, 2 Rifles said: "Rifleman Sheldon was a much loved member of the Fire Support Platoon. He was a professional soldier and team player.

"Shelly had seen operational experience in Sierra Leone , Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and most recently in Forward Operating Base Inkerman, Afghanistan . His experience and sense of humour rubbed off on those within the platoon and he could always be depended upon to get the job done.

"Rifleman Sheldon was a strong member of Two Section, carrying the Light Machine Gun for many hours on numerous patrols into the Green Zone. He was called on for his Jackal driving experience when out on desert patrols. I remember teasing Shelly as he was preparing the vehicle for patrol and he always had some banter to throw back.

"Rifleman Sheldon was a friend to me, and considered a best friend by many of the men of the FSG. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Swift and Bold."

Rfn Baleisuva, FSG, B Company, 2 Rifles, added his tribute, saying: "Rifleman Sheldon was a very good and kind person to know. He always made everyone laugh and, no matter how hard the times, he always saw the funny side of it.

"We often had a can of pop after a patrol and talked about life out here. Everyone who was on the ground with him is affected by his death and we did all we could to get him out safely into more qualified care. I still have his can of pop.

"Shelly, we will always remember you and remember that you are a Chosen Man. God Bless you."

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord - Psalm 150:6"

Adrian's death marks the third Mansfield area soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2001, following on from Ptes Andrew Cutts and Damien Wright.

The latest deaths bring the total number of British servicemen and women to be killed in Afghanistan since October 2001 to 157.

You can add your tribute to Rifleman Adrian 'Shelly' Sheldon below

And click here to read the Book of Condolence for Adrian Sheldon