A soldier killed in Afghanistan while protecting his colleagues had quit the army 10 months ago, his family revealed.

Private Jonathan Monk, 25, agreed to return to Afghanistan for one last tour of duty as a reservist while he was waiting to join the fire service.

The valiant soldier, who joined the army when he was just 16, was killed by a home made bomb while on foot patrol in the Upper Garesk Valley in Helmand Province on June 9.

His family, music teachers Diana and Peter Monk and psychology student sister Michaela, 21, said the loss of their “hero” had left a huge void in their lives.

Mrs Monk, 62, said: “He came out to try and enter civilian life but he did not really settle out of the army. He was on edge all of the time.

"The Army was in his blood, it was all he'd ever wanted to do since he was five years old.”

Private Monk from 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment was attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The soldier, who did tours of duty in Iraq in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2008, was waiting to hear whether his fire service application was successful when he received a call from the MoD asking him to commit to one more tour of duty in Afghanistan.

His mum said: “He had been before so he knew what it was like, the MoD said he was valuable because a lot of people would be going there for the first time.

“Before he went I asked him how he felt about it. He said, ‘I can’t wait.’ He was happy doing something that he knew. He was very goal orientated, very determined.

“He was never afraid of anything, he would just go for it.”

“He was due back on June 28. He rang me up a few days before he died and told me he wanted to use the money he earned to buy us a new kitchen. He was so generous.”

Michaela, 21, who is studying at the Open University, said: “He was a very protective brother, we were close, we would always go out for drinks together, we had the same friends.

“We miss him so much. The MoD are due to bring his body back on Thursday.”

Mrs Monk said her son had a great sense of humour and was something of a prankster, always playing tricks on his friends in camp, something his superiors despaired of.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Hadfield, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) said: "In camp he was every Sergeant Major's nightmare, nonchalant and laid back, but in combat he fought like a tiger and was always to the fore when the bullets were flying.

"He was the epitome of the combat Infantry soldier, and will be missed by all who knew him. We will remember his ready smile, his quick wit and his cool head under fire.

"He was so full of life and had so much more to give to the World, I consider myself privileged to have had him under my command."

Lance Corporal Matthew Smith, Private Frazer Locke, Private Callum McMahon, Private Adam Whelan and Fusilier Nico Williams Mons Platoon, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), said: "John was the joker of the pack, and always kept morale high with pranks and jokes, and was especially well known for saying 'boo' to anything that didn't suit him.

"He would drag his feet, and moaned like any good soldier does but he would always get the job done to best of his ability.

"His laid back attitude and humour was infectious and would always get him in trouble, but he would never have any regrets.

"The best asset he brought to the group was his relaxed demeanour and calm personality that ensured he never became stressed or worked up and would just sail through any situation."

Private Duane Knott said: “"Private Monk - many words describe this soldier: strong, humble, good at pool, dancing and drinking, more successful with women than he should be, intelligent and honest.

"The courage and honour this man showed in the face of fear takes more than a man, it takes a hero."

On a facebook page set up in tribute to the fallen soldier friends wrote about how much they would miss their witty and humble friend.

Stephen Spartan wrote: “John you will be sorely missed, funnier than you ever knew, and always there for a chat. I’m glad we had that time before we left Cyprus to get a few beers down the range. The heroism you showed in life will be cemented into eternity now. You’re my boy blue! R.I.P. my thoughts are with you and your family.”

Chris Irwin wrote: “Jon you were a good friend. I’ll always remember that crazy night out in Canada, one of the best. You will be sorely missed by all. It was a honour to serve with you. My thoughts go out to you and your family. God bless.”