Tributes have been paid to a “loud, loyal and loving” Royal Artillery officer from Watford who has died in Afghanistan.

Captain Tom Sawyer, 26, was serving with 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed today that Capt Sawyer was killed in an explosion during a joint operation with a Danish Battle Group and the Afghan National Army, on Wednesday, January 14.

He was part of a fire support team fighting a Taliban stronghold north east of Gereshk, in central Helmand.

Capt Sawyer is survived by his wife Katy, whom he married in March 2008, his parents Martyn and Susan and sister Wendy.

His family described him as “the best husband, son and brother we could ever have asked for."

A statement read: “He deeply loved his family and friends and his infectious personality touched all those who knew him. Dedicated to the army and his lads; he was loyal, loud and loving. He will leave a big hole in all of our lives but will always be remembered as our hero."

Capt Sawyer went to Watford Grammar School for Boys and Rickmansworth School, and was a cadet in the Watford Air Training Corps.

A keen sportsman with a passion for outdoor sports, Tom followed in his father's footsteps by joining the Armed Forces.

Choosing the Army, he was accepted as an officer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and successfully earned the Queen's Commission as a second Lieutenant in April 2002.

Capt Sawyer was then selected by the Royal Regiment of Artillery for Young Officer training, and on completion, was posted to 32 Regiment Royal Artillery (later 39 Regiment) as a Troop Commander.

Following this tour, he was posted to the Army Training Regiment at Pirbright. His final posting, to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, came in September 2006, in time for deployment to Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 5.

On Operation HERRICK 5, Capt Sawyer took command of an Afghanistan National Army outstation and led Afghan Army mentoring and training.

Thriving under testing circumstances, he received a Brigade Commander's Commendation for his outstanding performance.

On his return to the UK, he passed the All Arms Commando course, earning the right to wear the Green Beret of Commando forces.

Assigned to 7 (Sphinx) Commando Battery, based in RM Condor, Arbroath, Capt sawyer was appointed Battery Training Officer and took charge in preparing his unit to return to Afghanistan in October 2008.

Described as “robust, fit and ever determined”, Capt Sawyer recently organised and led the Regimental Telemark Ski Team to compete in Austria, and planned to take his soldiers adventure training in Cyprus on completion of Operation HERRICK 9.

Lieutenant Colonel Neil Wilson said Capt Sawyer, who held ambitions to pursue a career in the Special Forces, “died a hero”.

He said: "Utterly courteous in all that he did, I will forever remember Tom as a gregarious, fun loving, universally popular character with a ready smile and a joke. The great loss I feel as his Commanding Officer is incomparable to that which I know his wife and family will be feeling as a result of his death."

Major Jackson Docherty added: "He was passionate about his job and the Battery could ask for no more from him. However, an Adjutant's nightmare, Tom was notorious throughout 45 Commando Group for his shenanigans and his desire to look cool whilst wearing the latest military fashion - if it was different, Tom had it. He also had a knack of getting away with it.

"He will always be remembered within commando forces and his passing is felt by us all. He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others. His wife Katy has lost a wonderful husband and we, in the Battery, have lost a great officer. Our thoughts and prayers are with his newly wed wife, Katy and his parents at this time."

Captain Rob Cooper said Capt Sawyer was “a true inspiration”. He said: “His devotion to his wife, Katy, was unrivalled and my heart goes out to her and Tom's entire family who he never stopped talking about. You will be sorely missed mate."

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Morris added: “Over the last year in which I have known Tom, we have had the opportunity to talk often. On every occasion I have been struck by his zest for life, the enthusiasm and commitment that he showed for his profession and his humility and preparedness to listen to advice.

"He had every quality that could be expected from a Commando Gunner Officer and I have no doubt that he had a very bright future ahead of him. All ranks of 45 Commando Group and, in particular, Zulu Company, join me in sending my very deepest condolences to his wife, Katy, and his close family and friends.”

The death of Capt Sawyer brings the number of British Forces personnel who have died in Afghanistan since October 2001 to 141.