THE body of 21-year-old Matthew Haseldin, who was killed in Afghanistan just eight months after joining the Army, will return home tomorrow.

Private Haseldin, from the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, was killed on Thursday, November 3, in the Nahr-e Saraj District, in Helmand Province.

He had been taking part in a patrol when it was attacked by insurgents.

His death takes the total number of service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 384.

Pte Haseldin, from Settle, Yorkshire, enlisted in February 2011 and joined 2 Mercian in August, ahead of the Battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan in September.

The young soldier joined C Company Group, which is responsible for securing freedom of movement along Route 611, a key main supply route linking Gereshk city with other district centres in Helmand province and beyond, including Kandahar City.

But on the morning of November 3, he and his patrol came under attack from small arms fire and grenades, during which Pt Haseldin was fatally wounded.

His parents, Alan and Jill, said: “Matthew was a loving son and we are very proud of him. He had only been in the Army for a few months. Friends and family will miss him greatly.”

Lieutenant Colonel Colin Marks, Commanding Officer 2 Mercian and Combined Force Burma, said: “Although Pte Matthew Haseldin had only served a short time with C Company Group, he stood out as a young man of immense character, who had travelled widely and was mature beyond his years.

“Hugely popular, it was impossible to tell that he was the newest member of 7 Platoon; all of whom loved him like a brother.

“Steadfast in battle, Matthew faced more challenges in the few short weeks he spent in Helmand than many soldiers experience in a lifetime. He died standing firm in the face of a determined enemy.”

Pte Haseldin’s body will arrive at RAF Brize Norton at about 12.30pm. His coffin will be placed in a hearse and driven to the John Radcliffe Hospital, where a post mortem will take place.

The cortege will pass by Carterton memorial garden at about 2.45pm, where the soldier’s family and loved ones will be met and offered condolences by town mayor Norman MacRae.

The route is expected to be lined with hundreds of people wishing to pay their respects, including former service personnel, members of the Royal British Legion and members of the public.

Jim Lewendon, 82, is chairman of the Oxford group of the Royal British Legion, and in 2008 began repatriation tributes in Headley Way, Headington. He and around 100 of his comrades salute the cortege of every returning soldier just before it passes through the gates of the JR.

Mr Lewendon said: “It’s been just two weeks since the young Gurkha Rifleman Vijay Rai passed by us on his final journey and to know we will be saluting another youngster, so soon – and this time one who has only been in the Army for eight months – is a tragedy for us all.

“But come rain, hail or snow we will be there to pay our final respects to these young men and women because they are fighting the war on terrorism, on behalf of us all.”