Hereford & Worcester

'We were all affected by Will's death'

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Image caption Rifleman Will Aldridge joined the Army in December 2008

For generations Armistice Day has traditionally been seen as a time to remember the millions who died in both World Wars.

But increasingly, thoughts are turning to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in more recent conflicts.

BBC Midlands reporter Bob Walker has been looking at how William Aldridge - the youngest soldier to die in the current Afghanistan conflict - will be remembered.

It's William Aldridge's smile that they all seem to remember.

His primary school teacher Chloe Evans recalls a playground tearaway with a caring nature and a lopsided grin.

"His smile would begin at the corner of his mouth and then spread across the whole of his face," she said.

"If ever another child was hurt in the playground, William would be the first to bring them to the teacher for help.

"Sometimes it was because he may have knocked them down accidentally himself - he used to dash around the playground."

The fact that a primary school teacher still has such fresh memories of her pupil is a sad indicator of just how young he was when he died.

At 18 years and 47 days, he was the youngest soldier to lose his life in Afghanistan.

He was one of five soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles who lost their lives on the same day when they were caught in a series of explosions while on foot patrol in Helmand Province.

Despite being injured in the first explosion, Rifleman Aldridge continued to help his colleagues and assisted the field medics before the second device exploded, killing him and three others.

His mother Lucy, who set up the William Aldridge charitable foundation, is not surprised that her son died helping others.

"William always saw himself as a defender - as a peacekeeper - even as a young child," she said.

"There was nothing else that he wanted to do. He was absolutely focused and totally dedicated to doing the job he was doing."

She remembers him as a typical teenager, with a great sense of fun and a party spirit.

"But he was extremely switched on and knew what he wanted to do with his life and as a mother I can only have a huge sense of pride in my son for having that dedication," she added.

Image caption The governor of Helmand province paid tribute to William at the arboretum

His name has now been inscribed on the war memorial in the small village of Bredenbury in Herefordshire where on Thursday his friends and neighbours will gather to honour all those who gave their lives for their country.

"It will be a poignant day for the whole community," said the vicar, the Reverend Lynn Money.

"It will give extra meaning to Remembrance Day.

"It's the first time since the [second world] war that this village has had to do this and in a village this size everyone knows everyone else and we were all affected by Will's death."

More than 340 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and their names have been inscribed on the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Mrs Aldridge recently met Gulab Manghal, the governor of Helmand province, who paid tribute to Rifleman Aldridge and all those who lost their lives in his country.

During a visit to the arboretum he said: "They have fought to liberate others and they were fighting for the safety of your country as well as our country.

"Safety in my country will mean safety in your country."

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