THE latest soldier to be repatriated into Brize Norton today was a rising star and outstanding marksman who joined the Army as a boy cadet.

Rifleman Sheldon Steel, from 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 Rifles), was killed in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on Sunday by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Just 20 years old and from Leeds, last year he won his company’s annual competition to find their best rifleman.

Rifleman Steel leaves his mother Victoria, sisters Cody and Carys and brother Kameron.

A statement from his family said: “Sheldon was loving, caring and affectionate with his family and we all heard from him regularly. He loved being in the Army from when he was in the Army Cadets to joining 5 Rifles.

“He was very fit and ran a marathon in June this year. He won prizes for his soldiering both in training and in a regimental competition. He had a good sense of humour and frequently joked with us all.

“He was a big lad – all 6 foot 4 inches of him – with a big heart. His Nanas had to stand on the wall outside the house to kiss him ‘goodbye’. Words cannot explain how much he will be missed by us all.

“We have already received a lot of support from family, friends and work colleagues and we really appreciate this.”

Fellow soldier, Lance Corporal Adam Booth, 14 Platoon, D Company, 5 Rifles, said: “Steely was an exceptional soldier, fit robust and a true athlete.

“As strong as an ox, with a heart of gold, he always helped the other riflemen in the Platoon. We have lost one of, if not the best, riflemen in the company. He was a natural soldier and would have made a great Non-Commissioned Officer.”

Rifleman Steel’s body is due to be flown into RAF Brize Norton at 12.30pm, where his closest family will join his cortege. The solemn procession will then travel slowly towards Carterton, and its memorial garden at about 2.45pm, where it will be met by town mayor Norman MacRae, other civic figures and crowds of local people.

Mr MacRae said: “At the pavilion in the memorial garden, we have the honour of hosting the extended family – aunts, uncles and grandparents.

“The families are looked after while they are with us, by Royal British Legion liaison officers, who are trained in bereavement counselling.

“When the time comes, I will get word that the cortege is drawing near and the liaison officers take the family to the front of the crowd, to meet the cars as they pause outside the garden.

“Silence falls and the standard bearers stand to attention. It is deeply moving and very upsetting. But for myself and other local people it is no burden, but an honour to show our respects to the fallen in this way”

The cortege will make its way to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, arriving at about 3.30pm, for a post mortem examination.