A DEVASTATED former soldier has spoken of his anguish at the death of a brother in arms in one of the worst losses of life during the war in Afghanistan.
Hartlepool man Antony Foster served in the same Army company as the six British soldiers who tragically lost their lives this week, including one of his best pals Private Anthony Frampton, 20.
His pain was made worse because Antony, 22, would have been deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment.
But he left the Army just two weeks before the deployment on February 14 this year, to spend more time with his two young children.
Today, Antony said: “I wish I had been out there with him.”
Antony, from the King Oswy area of Hartlepool, last saw best pal Anthony shortly before he left the Army when they enjoyed a drink together.
Remembering his friend he said: “He was a very lively person. He was one of my best friends.
“He was funny, outgoing. He was a legend.”
Antony, a dad to seven-month-old son Chase and 21-month-old daughter Caitlyn, was on his way home to Hartlepool when the terrible news came through.
He said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I wish I was out there. I feel like I should have never left.
“I probably couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened, but I would like to know if I could have tried.”
Antony, who saw action in Afghanistan in 2010 and Iraq, knew four of the victims well having lived and served alongside them at the regiment’s barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire.
“We were like a band of brothers,” he said.
“You eat, sleep and fight with each other, and you look out for each other.
“You get very close.”
Private Frampton was killed alongside Corporal Jake Hartley, 20, Sergeant Nigel Coupe, 33, Private Daniel Wilford, 21, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, and Private Daniel Wade, 20.
Their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device (IED) in the deadliest single attack on British forces in Afghanistan since 2001.
Antony, who served for five years in the Army, said he feels “helpless” following their deaths.
But the keen runner vowed to raise money for his comrades’ families by completing a 283-mile sponsored run.
He plans to run the equivalent of a marathon a day from Catterick to Warminster for the cause he has called ‘283 miles for six family smiles’.
Antony added: “I thought what can I do, and came up with this idea.
“I have never done anything as hard as this before. People think it’s almost impossible, which is why I want to achieve it.”
People can support Antony’s efforts by visiting the website http://www.justgiving.com/Antony-Foster0