A SOLDIER killed in one of the heaviest enemy attacks in Afghanistan had volunteered to stay on the front line.
Army dog handler Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was due to come back home to the North East, but decided to stay in northern Helmand province to help his comrades.
The 24-year-old, who was attached to 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, had joined patrols searching for enemy weapons, ammunition and explosives near his base when he was caught in a fierce firefight with the enemy on July 24, 2008.
He and his explosives sniffer dog Sasha were killed.
At an inquest in North Shields yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Freddie Kemp, parachute officer attached to the defence inquests unit, said Kenneth was carrying out searches near a low wall when he came under fire.
There was a volley of five rocket-propelled grenades as well as firearm attacks from just 30m away. One of the grenades came in contact with the wall.
Lt Col Kemp added: “When the smoke cleared, it was immediately apparent that he and Sasha had become casualties. It was the heaviest attack the company had experienced.”
L/Cpl Rowe was taken by helicopter to Camp Bastion, but his life could not be saved. The cause of death was blast wounds as a result of the explosion.
Kenneth, of West Moor, North Tyneside, and Sasha were the first from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps to lose their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was praised for his actions and his bravery.
Lt Col Kemp said: “Dog handlers occupy a unique position in any military order of battle. The blend of character, experience and professionalism I know that Kenneth brought to this role meant, and I can say this as a Parachute Regiment officer, that he was undoubtedly regarded highly as one of their own.
“The whole of the company, indeed the whole battalion, took his loss very personally. He was an exceedingly capable and highly-regarded individual.”
Coroner Eric Armstrong recorded a verdict that Kenneth was killed while in active service.
After the hearing, Gary Haughan, Kenneth’s uncle and godfather, made a statement on behalf of the family, including his parents Kenneth and Lyn, and sisters Jennifer and Stephanie.
He said: “The family are relieved the inquest into Kenneth’s death has now been completed, and wish to thank the coroner for the understanding and sympathetic way in which the inquiry has been carried out.
“The pain of Kenneth’s death is as acute today as it was just over two years ago. As always, he put others before himself.
“He will always be remembered by everyone that new him.”