Daniel dies saving his comrades

A soldier whose family is from the North-East has been killed in Iraq while protecting his patrol from gunmen.

Daniel Lee Coffey

A soldier whose family is from the North-East has been killed in Iraq while protecting his patrol from gunmen.

Rifleman Daniel Lee Coffey, of 10 Platoon, C Company, Second Battalion The Rifles, was returning to base at the Shatt-Al-Arab hotel in Basra when his patrol was ambushed.

The Ministry of Defence said the 21-year-old provided protection to his patrol after small arms fire from two gunmen, but suffered "very serious injuries" and later died in hospital.

His mother, who lives in Newcastle, is understood to be too devastated to talk following his death on Tuesday.

Rifleman Coffey's grandfather, David Godfrey, 61, who lives in Cullompton, Devon, spoke of his grief yesterday and said he "struggled to comprehend" why British troops were in Iraq. He said Mr Coffey's parents, Samantha and Nigel, had been hit "very, very hard" and his six brothers and step-brothers, aged from three to 17, were also devastated.

Mr Godfrey said: "We are very, very proud of Daniel. He had a wonderful caring heart and was a very patriotic lad.

"When Daniel joined the Army he changed immeasurably, almost overnight, or so it seemed to me, for he changed from being a youthful teenager to a full-grown man, with full-grown beliefs to match and I am so very proud of him and the achievements he made in his regiment.

"He lived and died for the service he loved. Daniel would have been three years with his regiment in August and this was his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"All he wanted to do was make Sam and his dad proud of him and he did just that. To die at 21 is incomprehensible and beyond belief, but Daniel has shown, by his great courage in Iraq, that the young men and women of Great Britain who choose the armed forces as a career are a force to be proud of, and we in turn, should be very proud of them all."

He said: "Now is not the time to talk political agendas, but I will say this, I struggle to comprehend just why our troops are in Iraq at all.

"I could understand if we were fighting a war to protect this country, but we aren't. I do think this Government has a lot to answer for."

Daniel's Company Commander, Major Michael Foster-Brown, also paid tribute to Private Coffey yesterday.

He said: "He was very fond of his family and used to delight in showing pictures on his mobile phone, in particular the newest addition to it, his six-month-old brother. As well as his family in Devon, he spoke often about visiting his mother in Newcastle who, due to tours and spending time in Exeter near his father, he had not seen for a while.

"He was patriotic, as evident by his vocal support for England in any sport, and was a good football player.

"Rifleman Coffey had the qualities of a good rifleman: hard-working, thorough, quick-witted, brave, adventurous and with maybe just a hint of cheekiness. With these qualities he had strong potential for the future. We will miss him and we feel for his family."

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