Hero Royal Anglian killed ahead of Afghan tour

Peter WalshA heroic soldier from the Royal Anglian regiment has been killed on the eve of being sent out on a tour of war-torn Afghanistan.Last night his parents paid an emotional tribute to Lance Corporal Joe Rix who died in a car crash near his Wymondham home on Saturday.Peter Walsh

A heroic soldier from the Royal Anglian regiment has been killed on the eve of being sent out on a tour of war-torn Afghanistan.

Last night his parents paid an emotional tribute to Lance Corporal Joe Rix who died in a car crash near his Wymondham home on Saturday.

L/Cpl Rix was due to fly out to Afghanistan with the rest of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment tomorrowfor the start of his second six-month tour of the war-ravaged country.

But the 22-year-old was killed after being involved in a crash which happened at about 4.45am on the B1172 London Road at Suton, near Wymondham.

His devastated family are trying to come to terms with the fact this brave soldier lost his life not in active service, but while here at home.

Last night his father Peter told the EDP: 'You think what might happen and how you might cope but when this happens…we weren't prepared for this at all. You think he's safe at home.'

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Mr Rix and his wife Diane, who live in Wymondham, said their son had gone out with a friend on Friday night and did not know anything was wrong until they got a knock at their door in the early hours of Saturday morning.

'He went out with his mate at about 8pm and they walked down to town,' said Mr Rix. 'We don't know what happened after that. 'The next morning we knew there was a ring on the door bell and thought Joe had forgotten his key. It was about 5.50am.'

Mr Rix said it was the police who told him and his wife that there had been a car accident and he had sustained life-threatening injuries. The family went to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where L/Cpl Rix later died.

'He's a son any parent would've been proud to call a son,' said Mr Rix.

'He made us all very proud of him,' said Mrs Rix. 'He loved the army and excelled at everything he did in it. He has left a very big hole in our lives which can never be filled. He brought us joy and happiness.'

L/Cpl Rix, a former Wymondham High school pupil, had originally wanted to join the fire service and had been a fire cadet since the age of 13.

'I don't think the fire service would've been enough for him,' said Mr Rix. 'He loved a bit of excitement. We never tried to stop him - it's what he wanted to do.'

'He really enjoyed it - he excelled in it,' said Mrs Rix.

After completing a one-year public service course at Easton College L/Cpl Rix joined the army in 2004 and completed his training at Catterick in north Yorkshire.

His proud parents said that during his training he was awarded the honour of being best shot as rifleman. It was a talent that would see him go on to be a sharp shooter in Afghanistan.

Just months after completing his training and L/Cpl Rix was given his first taste of active service with a six month tour to Iraq in 2005.

As well as going to Iraq L/Cpl Rix, a member of B company, also completed a tour of Afghanistan in 2007 and was given a heroes welcome as one of the soldiers to take part in the homecoming parades in Norwich.

'He was one of those boys that when he was in the army he was with the army and when he was home he was Joe,' said Mr Rix.

'He didn't say too much, he just really enjoyed the army life - that was going to be his career.'

Though he was a Private last time he was in Afghanistan the young soldier was heading out this time a Lance Corporal after completing a fire commander course.

L/Cpl Rix had been 'packing all week' for his forthcoming tour and his parents were due to take him to Pirbright, Surrey, yesterdayto meet up with the rest of his battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel James Woodham MC, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, said: 'We were shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of Lance Corporal Joe Rix.

'The fact that he died whilst spending a precious few days saying goodbye to his family and friends before deploying to Afghanistan has added to our feeling of disbelief and sorrow. He was a very talented soldier who stood out from the crowd - he shone as one of the very best of his generation who many privately tipped to go all the way. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe's family at this tragic time and we stand ready to support them in any way we can.'

Away from the army L/Cpl Rix was a loving son and brother to his sisters Emma, her husband Ian and other sibling Laura, her husband Richard, and uncle to their young son William.

He also loved motorbikes and one of his prized possessions was his Suzuki GSXR motorbike. He also liked to catch up with his friends when he returned from duty.

Three companies of Royal Anglians totalling 380 troops will deploy to Helmand province over the next few days fir a six month tour. The battalion, nicknamed 'The Vikings', suffered heavy losses during its last tour of Helmand in 2007 when nine of its soldiers were killed.