Tributes have been paid to the Corby soldier who died a hero in Afghanistan while trying to protect his men.
Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was killed on Wednesday in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.
He was killed during a patrol with the Reconnaissance Platoon as a result of enemy action.
His best friend Liam Black, 23, said: “We are all devastated. Last night all James’ mates were together in the Everard Arms pub in Corby. Everyone came down. We just needed to talk about him and be there for each other.
“Later today some of us are going to see James’ family and his girlfriend to let them know we are here to help support them.”
Lance Corporal Ashworth, who went to Lodge Park Technology College in Corby, joined the Army in 2006 when he was 17.
His mum Kerryann and girlfriend Emily, along with his father Duane, sisters Lauren and Paige, brothers Coran, also a serviceman, and Karl, and niece Darcy, are devastated by their loss.
Liam said: “James and I were friends since reception class. We went to different junior schools but then we were together again at Lodge Park.
“He was a big friendly guy and everyone loved him. He has so many friends. He had a great sense of humour and loved sport. He played for Danesholme football team and he was a Spurs fan. He was good at all sports.
“The last time he was home all his mates had a big night out with him before he went back. We kept in touch every week and he was looking forward to coming home.
“James came from a military family and he never spoke about what it was like out there. If he was worried, he never mentioned it. I worried for his safety and now we are all just shattered.”
Alison Hayes, acting principal at Lodge Park Technology College, Corby, said: “We would like to express our condolences to James’ family and friends. They are in our thoughts and prayers.
“Sports teacher Ralph Grant remembers James very well as a great team player and a really likeable pupil. He has been in touch with some of James’ friends from school since the news of his death.”
James’ family are being consoled by relatives and friends. They said: “We are devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and boyfriend. He meant the world to everyone and has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts. We ask that we are given time to grieve and we sincerely thank everyone for their condolences.”
Corby mayor, Mohammad Rahman, said: “This is such sad news. The council’s and the whole community’s hearts are with James’ friends and family at this devastating time. There are many local men and women who are putting their lives at risk everyday for our country and their bravery should forever be commended.”
Leader the council, Cllr Tom Beattie, said: “There are no words to describe just how awful this news is. We hold all of our servicemen and woman in high esteem in the borough and to hear of the loss of such a young soldier is just heartbreaking. It is times like this we all realise the true risks that these brave individuals face everyday for our country and for that we owe them all of our gratitude and respect. All of are thoughts and wishes are with James’ family and friends.”