A SOLDIER who died more than two months after being injured in an explosion in Afghanistan has been described as ‘one of the Army’s finest’.

Heartbroken family and friends of former Todmorden High School pupil Jack Stanley have paid tribute to the Queen’s Royal Hussar after he died from his injuries aged 26.

Cpl Stanley was seriously injured by an improvised electronic device while on patrol, east of Lashkar Gah on February 3, and was airlifted to a medical facility at Camp Bastion.

He was transferred back to the UK to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment but died on Sunday with his family at his bedside. He leaves his mother, Brenda, father Tom, his sister Rachael, and his girlfriend Sarah.

Colin Davidson, his regimental sergeant major, said Cpl Stanley was: “Supremely fit, and destined for the top. He was the finest of his generation. His loss is felt deeply by all members of the Regiment both past and present.”

His mother has described him as a ‘kind, generous lad with a ready smile’.

Friends in Todmorden have already established the Jack Stanley fund in his honour and raised more than £2,000 by selling wristbands at shops across the town.

Plans had also been drawn up for an all-day music festival featuring bands including The Bambinos, The Lodgical and Stolen Haven, for June 12, at Jack's House pub in Burnley Road, Todmorden.

He was also an outstanding footballer and a key member of the Regimental team which won the British Army (Germany) Cup in 2010 and the Cavalry Cup in 2011.

His mother Brenda said: "He fought so hard to stay with us and the devastation we feel cannot be described. The world is duller without him and heaven brighter.”

Cpl Stanley was born in Bolton but grew up in Todmorden. He had spent his last fortnight’s leave with his girlfriend and pals in Todmorden, just after Christmas, before returning to the warzone.

Sue Landale, landlady of Jack’s House, said: “You cannot describe how much of a character he was and how much he will be missed by his family and friends in Todmorden. He knew a lot of people locally when he came in here because he had gone to school with them.”

Later discussions will be held with Jack’s family over how the support fund should be handled – and whether the music festival will still go ahead.

Cpl Stanley had been in the Army since 2003, and was serving as a section commander with his regiment's C company, which first deployed last October.

Lieut Col Ian Mortimer, his commanding officer, said the corporal's 'ability and flair' saw him join the regiment's reconnaissance troop, 'where he excelled'.

He said: “He was utterly dedicated to his friends and the regiment, and this just shone through in everything he did.

“Hugely popular with all ranks, he was known for his quick wit and ready smile, even in the darker moments.

"Professional, fit, robust and utterly determined, he thrived on the challenges of Army life, whether it was on operations in Iraq, or here in Afghanistan.

“He was fantastic at his job and also a renowned footballer. Both on and off the sports field he excelled. He epitomised the very best of his generation.

"We have lost a most outstanding soldier who was an inspiration to all. Junior soldiers aspired to be like ‘Stan’.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this most difficult and tragic time. We will remember him."

Sgt Jonathan Hillary, his platoon sergeant, said: “He was a soldier to respect and follow. He was, and will be remembered as, a great leader to his young soldiers and respected by his commanders.”

Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary, added: “It is clear from the tributes paid to him that Cpl Stanley was an extremely brave individual who exemplified all the virtues of the British soldier.

“Personable and professional to the end, Cpl Stanley showed himself to be a trusted leader and by every account given by those who knew him, he was a credit to his parents and his regiment.”

Major Alexander Porter, his company commander, said he had recently praised the corporal for the way he had treated an Afghan policeman, who was severely injured while out on patrol with him.

He said: "As a friend and sportsman, his competitive streak was tireless. On numerous occasions I would be certain of victory in our regular cross country running competitions, only to see Corporal Stanley effortlessly breeze past me in the final few hundred metres.

“The whole company is shocked and saddened by this devastating loss of a life in its prime. We have all been deprived of one of the Army's finest soldiers and he will be dearly missed.”

Lieut Fergus Macdiarmid, his platoon commander, said: “He was a true character within the platoon and a pleasure both to serve with and command.

"Cpl Stanley set the bar high and was an example to all, idolised by younger members of the platoon and respected by those he served alongside.”