A TOWN and its regiment were united in grief and shock after the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan.
Corporal Andrew Roberts and Private Ratu Silibaravi of Bicester-based 23 Pioneer Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, were killed in indirect fire in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.
The pair were part of an advanced team searching for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in high risk areas.
Cpl Roberts was a close friend of Warrant Officer Class 2 Charlie Wood, who was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in December 2010.
The pair shared a love of Middlesbrough Football Club.
Last night WO2 Wood’s widow Heather was among those grieving.
She said: “Corporal Roberts was a good guy and Charlie obviously knew him really well.
“They were both from Middlesbrough and Charlie actually helped his wife organise a fun day in Bices- n Continued from Page 1 ter when he was deployed previously.”
She said the shockwaves from the two deaths were spreading through the regiment.
Mrs Wood, 32, said: “It’s certainly hit the regiment really hard and everybody is feeling it, whether they’re posted in Bicester or away.
“I have had a lot of phone calls and text messages asking if I’m okay because it does bring it all back, for them as well as me.”
Cpl Roberts, a father of three, was 32 and had been based at St David’s Barracks since 2008. It was his second tour of Afghanistan.
He leaves behind wife Lindsey, from whom he was separated, and children Jessica, Kayla and Kyle.
He also leaves partner Paula.
His children paid the following tribute: "You were the best Dad, we remember all the fun things we did, we will never forget you and will love you forever. You are our hero and we will pray for you always."
His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dom Fletcher, said: “Cpl Andrew Roberts, known to everyone as ‘Ginge’, is a man I am proud to say I knew well.
“This junior commander was the epitome of a Pioneer soldier, brave, fit, robust and a ‘salt of the earth character’ who led his soldiers from the front and by example.”
Pte Silibaravi, 32, was born in Fiji and took up post in Bicester in 2003, a year after joining the British Army.
He had served in Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009.
Pte Silibaravi was an active member of the Bicester Fijian Community, and Fijian Community Church, and sang in the community choir.
Private Cayah ‘Robbo’ Ware-Roberts, from 23 Pioneer Regiment, said: “Sili was an immensely strong character, everyone liked him, it’s as simple as that. I consider it an absolute privilege and honour to have served next to him.”
Major Derren Battersby, Officer Commanding Operations Squadron, 23 Pioneer Regiment, said: “Pte Silibaravi was very much a ‘soldier’s soldier’. A cliche perhaps, but he was a dedicated stalwart of the squadron and of his community.”
Charles Shouler, who represents Bicester South on Oxfordshire County Council said: “The Logistics Corps is very attached to the town and obviously a loss is felt not just individually but by the town as a whole.”
Royal British Legion Oxfordshire county chairman Jim Lewendon called on people to attend the repatriation, expected to take place later this week. He said: “I am sure we will get more people because they are local lads.”