Tributes have been pouring in for an East Lancashire dad who was killed while helping to defend Ukraine from Russian invasion, aged 38.

Great Harwood’s Simon Lingard, who was known as Grimmy and also lived in Blackburn for a time, died on Monday (November 7) when his unit was attacked in Ukraine.

He leaves behind his children Jackson, 17, and Keane, 13.

His ex-wife and mother of his children, Stacey Longworth, told the Lancashire Telegraph she and the children are “heartbroken”.

Stacey, from Blackburn, said: “The children are absolutely distraught.

Lancashire Telegraph: Simon LingardSimon Lingard (Image: Stacey Longworth)

“It’s just heartbreaking having to tell my children their dad has died.

“He was such a good dad and the kids absolutely loved him. We can’t believe he’s gone.”

Stacey, 37, said she has been overwhelmed by the support and messages from the community.

She said: “I have had people from all over the world send their condolences and mention how much of a nice guy he was.

“Those that served alongside him said he was a true hero, an inspiration to everyone and a true soldier.

“He was very stubborn and had a brilliant sense of humour.

“He was his own man and knew his own mind.”

On Wednesday night (November 9) the people of Great Harwood held a vigil for the veteran.

Lancashire Telegraph: Simon LingardSimon Lingard (Image: Stacey Longworth)

Stacey said: “It was overwhelming and there was so much support there and people that loved him.

“People lit candles, someone wrote a song and sang it, there were speeches.

“Soldiers from different parts of England came down to pay their respects and meet Simon’s children.”

Simon, who served as a paratrooper for several years, went out to fight Ukraine as he thought it was the right thing to do after Russian troops invaded.

Stacey said: “He had been a soldier for most of his life as a paratrooper but wasn’t currently in the army.

“When he heard what was going on him a friend were talking about going over there to help.

“He was standing up for what he believed in.

“I didn’t want him out there, nobody wanted him out there, but he was his own man.”

Stacey has set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral costs which has already reached more than £24,000.

She says any leftover money will be given to his children when they turn 18.

She said: “Simon died in Ukraine and the Ukrainian military has offered to pay to bring his body home.

“We set up the GoFundMe to pay for his funeral but we have already reached quite a substantial target already.

“Anything else will go to his children when they are 18 because he isn’t going to be here for their rest of their lives.”

Since the news was released, family and friends have left tributes for Simon.

Lee Stephenson said: “Sadly my big brother Simon Lingard, has sadly passed away while fighting in Ukraine.

"His family are trying to raise funds for his funeral when he is brought home.

“If anyone can donate even the smallest amount to ease a little bit of stress for them I would appreciate it to no end. Let’s give him the respect a hero like my brother deserves.”

His son Jackson said: "I can't put into words how much he is (and will be) missed.

"But I'm comforted to know that this happened doing what he loved and surrounded by friends.

"I love you dad, I'm so proud of you."

Damian Duckworth said: "I'm absolutely gutted to be sharing this news about my bestest matey who has lost his life trying to defend Ukraine."

You can donate to the GoFundMe by clicking here.