TRIBUTES have been paid to two Bovington-trained soldiers who died at a Ministry of Defence base in Wales.

Royal Tank Regiment corporals Matthew Hatfield, 27, from Wiltshire, and Darren Neilson, 31, from Lancashire, died when an ammunition round exploded as they were in a tank at Castlemartin.

Two other soldiers remain in a serious condition in hospital.

Tank live firing exercises at the site have been suspended as a precaution.

Lt Col Simon Ridgway, Commanding Officer of The Royal Tank Regiment, said they were both "exceptionally talented soldiers who loved what they did".

"The regiment has lost two real characters and feels truly honoured to have served with them. They will both be sorely missed," he said.

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said in a statement: "Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time, who have requested that their privacy be respected."

Cpl Hatfield completed the Challenger 2 drivers’ course in Bovington and joined the Queen’s Royal Hussars. While doing a job at the Armoured Trials and Development Unit he transferred into the Royal Tank Regiment to be closer to his mother, sister, fiancée and daughter.

Lt Col Ridgway said he was "an utterly professional, incredibly hard working and exceptionally well liked soldier" and "an excellent role model and mentor for junior soldiers and he always put others before himself".

During his career he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and took part in exercises in Germany, the UK, Oman, Brunei and Canada.

Cpl Neilson joined the Army in 2004 serving with both the 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments before they amalgamated.

He had recently joined BADGER, a Challenger 2 squadron, as a Troop Corporal and gunnery instructor, and was part of the Army recruiting team.

Lt Col Ridgway said: "His passion for his career in general, and gunnery in particular, was obvious and many of our soldiers have improved their skills as a result of his dedication and experience.

"Always at the centre of the action he could be counted on to make people laugh whatever the circumstances and we all feel incredibly privileged to have known him.

"His sudden loss is devastating and his family are in our thoughts and prayers at this incredibly difficult time."

He was deployed on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.