A heroic soldier killed in Afghanistan by a home-made bomb died instantly after suffering from devastating blast trauma, an inquest heard.

Croydon Coroner’s Court heard Private Jonathan Monk died on June 9 last year in Upper Garesk Valley in Helmand province.

The 25-year-old, from Croydon, had quit the Army and was waiting to hear if his application to become a fireman had been successful, when he was asked to do one last tour of duty in Afghanistan in the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment which was attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The soldier, who his family said “had the Army in his blood” was involved in clearing an area laced with deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the Taliban.

He took great pride in his high risk, stressful job protecting his colleagues and the court heard he was “very careful” and “extremely good” at finding hidden bombs.

His commanding officer Major Christopher Wood told the court he was killed during a major operation to clear the area of bombs.

He said: “We had good intelligence from a number of sources about the location of the IEDs. We now believe they were moved very close to the time of us carrying out the operation.”

On the day he was killed Private Monk was working in a team with Private Thomas Roper manning a metal detecting device called a Vallon to find the bombs.

Corporal Ward, who walked behind the two Vallon men providing covering fire if they were attacked, told the Monk family about the day he died.

He said they were pushing through a field when the Afghan army they were training came under fire from enemy forces and his team moved towards them to provide fire support.

The trio had already crossed a river and one irrigation ditch and the court heard they were careful to sweep for bombs in high risk areas.

He said: “We had to cross a second irrigation ditch, which was 4ft(1.2m) deep. I pushed through in front of Private Monk to get eyes on the enemy ground.

“I heard an explosion behind me. Jon had detonated an IED when he was climbing out of the irrigation ditch.”

Corporal Roper who was operating a Vallon was about 5m (16.4ft) in front of the soldier when the bomb detonated.

He said: “I was saying to Jon I thought we would get fired on when the explosion went off behind me. I was pushed to the ground by the force, but did not get any injuries. I was shaking and shocked. I got up and turned around to see Jon lying on his back. I ran over shouting for the medic.”

Private Roper said he had gotten out of the ditch to the right of where Private Monk was killed.

He told the court there was "no way" the careful soldier would not have swept for bombs before climbing out of the water.

Coroner Dr Roy Palmer told the court: “There was nothing that anybody on he ground could have done to save his life once injured.

“He would have been completely unaware of what happened to him because of the injuries caused by the explosion. I am sorry you lost your son in such tragic circumstances.

"He was clearly a very devoted young man who loved his army life. He was due to join the fire service but volunteered for one final tour of duty.

"How sad and tragic his life ended in the way it did on that final tour of duty for which he volunteered. I find he was unlawfully killed in service to Queen and country.”

Jonathan Monk's family crowded into the courtroom to hear about how he died.

His devoted parents Diana and Peter Monk and psychology student sister Michaela thanked the soldiers who gave evidence at the inquest.

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

"He had great energy and drive, and tremendous courage and determination. Even as a child he had no fear of tackling difficult situations and would never give up."