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'Cpl Wilson was a legend, a father figure to so many young soldiers. He gave his life so one of his beloved Riflemen might live..' 150 DEAD IN IRAQ.

Byline: By CHRIS HUGHES, Security Correspondent

THE 150th British soldier killed in Iraq was a hero who died dragging one of his lads to safety in the middle of a ferocious gun battle.

Cpl Rodney Wilson, 30, and his men were ambushed as they raided a rebel house near Basra to seize a large cache of weapons.

The soldiers from the 4th Battalion, The Rifles, began to take casualties. And when one wounded man went down, Cpl Wilson, below, ran to his rescue and was hit.

Commanding officer Lt Col Patrick Sanders yesterday said Cpl Wilson's dedication and professionalism were summed up by his final act of audacious heroism.

He said: "It is simply typical of him that he was killed in action while evacuating a casualty under heavy fire.

"It was a supremely selfless and brave act. He would not have thought twice and he gave his life so that one of his beloved Riflemen might live.

"He was, in the words of his comrades, a legend - exceptionally fit, very tough, courageous, bold and decisive. He was a father figure for so many young soldiers. Where he led, others followed."

Company commander Maj Mark Wilson said Cpl Wilson - known to colleagues as Will - had set off on the mission that would claim his life with his usual cheerful and upbeat attitude.

He said: "If Will had one stock phrase, it was his description of anything and everything as being 'rude'. As he set off, he turned - and with a look of sheer excitement and a cheeky smile, described the situation yet again as 'rude'. And with that, he led his soldiers away."

Maj Wilson added: "He was selfless to the last and completely dedicated to his soldiers."

Last night, Cpl Wilson's distraught fiancee Michelle said: "I loved him deeply. I miss him. A huge part of my life has been taken away."

And close friend Sgt Paul Buckley said: "Will was one of the most professional soldiers I have ever had the honour to serve and fight alongside. He was always up for a laugh and had a belter of a sense of humour."

The Riflemen arrested five suspected insurgents during the raid in the Al Atiyah district north west of Basra and discovered 60 mortar bombs, a roadside bomb and a mortar firing tube.

Cpl Wilson was from a military family and was born in Rinteln, Germany. He was awarded a distinction in the Platoon Sergeant's battle course - putting him in the top two per cent of infantry soldiers.

The milestone of 150 British deaths was reached as experts warned soldiers are facing a war on two fronts - targeted by insurgents and caught in the crossfire between rival Shia militias.

Voice of the Mirror: Page 8

THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES: PAGES 16 AND 17

c.hughes@mirror.co.uk
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 9, 2007
Words:472
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