THE mother of solider Matthew Hatfield, who died after a tank exploded during a training exercise, this week paid tribute to the dedicated military man with a wonderful sense of humour.

Frances Chandler said she was being helped to come to terms with the death of her much loved son by his many friends and colleagues who have shown their support.

Corporal Hatfield, 27, who grew up in Everleigh and is a former pupil of Pewsey Vale School, knew he wanted to be a soldier from a young age when he was an army cadet in Marlborough and signed up as soon as he left school aged 16.

He died in hospital following a training incident at Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire, Wales last Wednesday in which another soldier from the Royal Tank Regiment died and two were seriously injured.

It is believed that a round exploded in a tank’s turret causing the vehicle to explode.

His mum said: "I take strength from the fact that Matthew always said that if anything happened to him he would have no regrets. It is just such a shame that it has happened now when he had so much to live for.

"He and his fiancee Jill were real soul mates and so much in love. I knew that as soon as he met her that she was the one. They were so happy together."

Fiancee Jill McBride said: "He is my world. He was kind, generous and loyal. He was funny and a true professional."

Cpl Hatfield, who was a keen sportsman and played rugby for Devizes, cricket for Collingbourne and swam for Pewsey and Tidworth, also leaves a young child who he had with a former partner.

Ms Chandler, who works for race horse trainer Richard Hannon at Everleigh, said: "He was a fantastic dad."

This week as she spoke at the Devizes home of Cpl Hatfield's grandmother surrounded by flowers and cards she remembered Matthew as a young boy inspired to become a soldier by the military manoeuvres he saw on Salisbury Plain close to his Everleigh home.

She said: "It was all he wanted to do. He was totally dedicated and always said he would become a regimental sergeant major and I know he would have done as once he set his mind to something he always achieved it.

"This week so many of his friends have sat in this room and we have all shed a few tears but then there has been lots of laughter as we remembered the funny things Matthew said and did. I knew he had a lot of friends but even I didn't realise how many there are.

"They have all said so many lovely things on social media about him as a person and they are all true."

One of his friends Jamie Padfield from Devizes wrote: "Can’t believe it was you I’m lost for words. Great memories growing up together and your messages to me whilst I was out in Afghan from your experiences.”

Cpl Hatfield came back unscathed from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and his mum said she coped with him being in a war zone by pretending he was still in Germany, where he was based at the time.

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Ridgway, Commanding Officer of The Royal Tank Regiment, said after the death of Cpl Hatfield and Cpl Darren Neilson: "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."

A full military funeral will be held for Cpl Hatfield at the regiment's base in Tidworth on a date yet to be set. An inquiry into the incident has started.

Cpl Hatfield also leaves a younger sister Samantha and his father Karl Hatfield.