Colleagues and family members have been paying tribute to the five British military personnel who were killed in a Lynx helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

The helicopter crashed on Saturday (26 April) in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar, 30 miles from the Pakistan border.

The victims of the tragic crash have been named as Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner, Corporal James Walters from the Army Air Corps, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan from the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps

They were all based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire

Captain Clarke, 30, from Cowbridge, Wales, was described by his commanding officer as a "fantastic young officer, full of life and immensely committed to his soldiers and friends".

"In the short time he had served in the unit he had proven to be an exceptional aviator and forthright leader who always placed himself at the centre of squadron life."

Captain Clarke's family said: "Tom brought so much happiness and love to everyone he knew with his sparkling blue eyes and cheeky smile. He had an absolute passion for life and was the best part of us; we are all poorer today without him."

Warrant Officer Faulkner, 38, was described as an "experienced aviator, loving husband and hugely dedicated father to two children."

His commanding officer said that Faulkner, who had been deployed to Afghanistan on numerous occasions, had been "a stalwart of the squadron for many years" and "consistently displayed the guile, leadership and bravery so closely associated with his squadron".

His family said: "Spen was a loving husband to Cally and devoted father to Natasha and Jack, and will be greatly missed. A huge gap has been left in our hearts forever. He has been tragically taken away whilst serving his Country, a job he loved. God rest his soul."

Corporal Walters, 36, was described by his commanding officer as a "highly competent" crewman and "a huge character."

RAF Personnel Killed in Lynx Crash
Tributes were left at the Royal Air Force base in Odiham.

"Corporal James Walters, or 'Bungle' as he was known, was a hugely committed soldier who had served with distinction throughout the Army Air Corps. Respected and well liked, he was always a mentor and friend to the less experienced members of the Unit. Never afraid to face the challenges of operations in Afghanistan, he served with immense skill and bravery. A huge character, the loss of Bungle has devastated the squadron."

His family said: "We cannot begin to comprehend the tragic loss of a beautiful and loving husband, daddy, son, and brother. James has left a huge hole in all our hearts."

Flight Lieutenant Chauhan, 29, from Birmingham, was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer when he died.

His commanding officer said he was "a hugely influential and well respected officer whose enthusiasm and professionalism permeated every aspect of his work. Charming, funny and sharp as a tack, he was immensely proud of his role and of his service."

He added he was an "exceptional officer, he clearly had a bright future ahead of him. His loss has devastated the station."

Lance Corporal Thomas, 26, who was from Brecon in Powys, Mid-Wales, volunteered to be mobilised from the Army Reserves for deployment to Afghanistan and arrived last December to be part of ISAF.

His commanding officer said: "This tragic incident has taken a young, enthusiastic and highly capable Intelligence Corps soldier away from us and his loss is deeply felt by all members of the unit and the Intelligence Corps as a whole."

His family said: "Oliver was a truly amazing person, living his life to the full, while fulfilling some of his many dreams and adventures. He was very much loved and will be greatly missed by his grieving family and friends".

An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the crash, however The Ministry of Defence has denied claims that insurgents shot down the helicopter.

Preliminary investigations have indicated that the crash was a "tragic accident" during the routine flight rather than the result of an enemy attack.

It is the first fatal accident of the Afghan conflict involving a UK military helicopter and the third biggest loss of life of British troops in a single incident in the country since the invasion in 2001.

The deaths bring the number of British forces personnel killed in the conflict in Afghanistan to 453.

A church service for the RAF personnel was held in the village church of Odiham in Hampshire.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid his personal tribute describing the accident as "a source of deep sadness."

Nato forces, including UK troops, are preparing to withdraw combat troops by the end of this year, handing responsibility for fighting the Taliban uprising to Afghanistan's army and police.