A FORMER Holmfirth High School student has been killed while fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Private Chris Gray, 19, died on Friday while serving with the Army's 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, known as the Vikings.
He had been in the Army only eight months.
Pte Gray was in the Helmand Province with A Company Group, 1 Royal Anglican Battlegroup.
They were conducting a routine security reassurance patrol in the town of Now Zad when five Taliban fighters were spotted setting up an ambush.
The company were then attacked by Taliban fighters with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars and rockets.
Those leading the patrol were pinned down by the enemy fire, so Pte Gray's platoon moved to support their comrades.
Pte Gray was acting as the point man - meaning he went ahead of his platoon to act as a lookout.
The Ministry of Defence said he had been selected for the position because of his "outstanding soldiering skills".
However, as his platoon moved forward, they were spotted by a group of Taliban fighters who attacked them at a range of just 15m.
After a fierce firefight, a small number of the Taliban forces were killed but Pte Gray was shot.
A Chinook helicopter, supported by an Apache attack helicopter, was called in to evacuate him.
Under constant fire, the Chinook landed at the scene, while the Apache engaged with the Taliban forces. Medical staff in the Chinook tried to save Pte Gray but he was pronounced dead on arrival at the British Hospital in Camp Bastion.
Two more soldiers from the same regiment were wounded on Saturday, when the same patrol was attacked by a large Taliban force in a firefight lasting two hours.
The soldiers were taken to Camp Bastion, but their condition is not serious.
Pte Gray's senior officers have praised his bravery in battle.
His commanding officer, Lt Col Stuart Carver, said: "Pte Chris Gray had quickly established himself as a highly respected member of 1 Royal Anglian and his death is a tragic loss.
"It came as no surprise to those that knew him that he died courageously in close combat, selflessly striving to relieve comrades in extreme danger.
"He was a true Viking who we will never forget."
Company commander, Major Dom Biddick, added: "He was a superlative soldier; passionate about his job and a man with real leadership potential.
"`Grayman', as he was known to his friends, was a young man with a big heart and a calm, generous and immensely trustworthy personality.
"A close friend to many, Private Gray had an infectious sense of humour and possessed a degree of optimism that many of his more cynical peers found baffling."
Pte Gray's Army friends also paid tribute to his skills as a soldier and his personal qualities.
His best friend, Private Matt Duffy, served with him in A Company.
He said: "Chris was an awesome soldier and a better mate. He loved the job more than anyone and died doing what he loved."
Pte Gray joined the Army only in September 2006, after completing his training as an infantry soldier at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, near York.
The regiment he belonged to recruits from north Leicestershire.
Pte Gray was born in Leicester and attended Ratby Primary School and Brookvale High School there.
He later attended Groby Community College before moving to Huddersfield and completing his secondary education at Holmfirth High School.
After school, his choice of career suited him well as he was an active person with a love of outdoor pursuits and snowboarding.
Pte Gray was the eldest of four children - with two younger brothers and a younger sister.
His family have asked to be left to grieve in private, but released a statement about Pte Gray.
They said: "He was a much loved and cherished son, grandson and brother, who was proud to serve his country. He will always be missed."
* The toll of fatalities among British Forces in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001 now stands at 53.
Of these, 31 were killed in action - including two who died as a result of injuries sustained in action.
Twenty-two are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents.