A FACTORY worker and volunteer soldier who died in Afghanistan just days after his 28th birthday will be repatriated to Brize Norton tomorrow.

Described by his commanding officer as a “true Yorkshire warrior”, Private Matthew Thornton, from 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (4 Yorks), was killed by an explosion in the Helmand Province on Wednesday, November 9.

His death takes the total number of service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 385.

The MoD revealed Pte Thornton left the Territorial Army in 2007, but missed the challenge and re-enlisted into D Company in September 2009, eager to deploy to Afghanistan when the opportunity arose.

Pte Thornton and his fellow soldiers were patrolling around a checkpoint in Helmand Province when they came under small arms and grenade fire.

He was caught in the blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) and was killed. He had celebrated his 28th birthday just six days earlier.

Colonel Ian Crowley, Commanding Officer, 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said: “(Pte Thornton was) a stalwart of D Company, he ‘tipped up’ for everything and was always the first to volunteer and help his company, professionally and socially.

“He was a fine soldier and an even finer man.

“The 4 Yorks is a family and we have lost one of our own. He was a true Yorkshire Warrior.”

Pte Thornton leaves behind his father Michael, his mother Susan, his sister Sarah, and his brother Nathan.

A moving tribute from his family read: “Matthew was a dedicated soldier and passionate about the job.

“He loved what he was doing.

“He loved life and lived it to the full – in his work, in his role with the Territorial Army and in his leisure time. Matthew will be greatly missed by his family, his TA colleagues and his friends. His death leaves a huge hole in all our lives.”

His body is due to be flown into the county at 12.30pm on Thursday, where he will be met by his closest family at the RAF Brize Norton repatriation centre.

His cortege will then pass the memorial garden in Carterton at 2.45pm where other members of his family will be welcomed by the town’s mayor, Norman MacRae.

Mr MacRae said: “I am desperately sad that yet another soldier has died serving his country. Like all our soldiers this young man chose to work on our behalf despite huge risks.”

The cortege is due to reach Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital at 3.30pm after receiving its now customary salute from veterans and members of the Royal British Legion who stand vigil in Headley Way.