A soldier on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan was shot by a Taliban sniper as he knelt in a corn field.

Private Matthew Haseldin died because the bullet missed his main body armour and passed through his side, an inquest in Skipton heard on Monday.

His platoon was ambushed while they were patrolling in Helmand Province on November 3, last year - Pte Haseldin had been out there less than a month.

The 21-year-old soldier, who was from Settle and served with the Mercian Regiment, died despite the courageous actions of his colleagues, who braved bullets and grenades to recover their comrade.

Sergeant Mark Harris carried the wounded soldier on his back through open ground to shelter behind a wall while Pte Joe Blakey, his friend, fired off covering rounds as bullets and grenades rained in.

As they battled to revive Pte Haseldin, who was in a patrol of eight soldiers in the Nahr-e Saraj district, Second Lieutenant Luke Beetlestone ran from a nearby vehicle carrying a stretcher and then all three men ran across open ground, wading through an irrigation ditch to reach their colleagues waiting in a vehicle on a nearby road.

North Yorkshire Coroner Robert Turnbull, who recorded a verdict that Pte Haseldin was “unlawfully killed while on active service”, was told by pathologist Dr Martin Pearce that the bullet hit the soldier on his left side, missing the armour plate by around 1.5cm, and had passed through his body, hitting his heart and coming out after hitting the inside of the armour at the back.

He revealed that the inner protective filler of the armour which went to the side of the plate had been put in the wrong way round and had slipped.

But he stressed that it would have made no difference to the outcome because the body plate was in the correct position. “If the bullet had struck the front, it would have stopped the round,” he said.

Sgt Harris told the coroner how he and Pte Blakey gave first aid and were joined by Second Lieutenant Beetlestone with a stretcher. They then made a “mad dash” towards the waiting vehicles negotiating a ditch while being fired at all the time.

Pte Blakey said he and Sgt Harris had dashed out from cover to reach Pte Haseldin and applied treatment to his chest while being under rifle and grenade attack.

“We picked him up and Sgt Harris put him on his back.

I was putting out fire and we managed to get behind a wall. Second Lieutenant Beetlestone arrived with a stretcher and we managed to get him back to the vehicle.”

Mr Turnbull heard how Pte Haseldin, a former pupil of Settle Middle School, was a “confident and enthusiastic soldier who had been keen to join his platoon”.

In recording his verdict, Mr Turnbull praised the bravery of the soldiers who had recovered Pte Haseldin’s body.

“They were extremely brave acting as they did under fire.

“They should be commended for their actions,” he said.

After the hearing Pte Haseldin’s parents, Alan, who lives in Settle, and Jill, in Cyprus, thanked family and friends and the Mercian Regiment for their support.

“Matthew was an only child but as a family we are determined to take every opportunity to live life to the full in memory of Matthew,” they said.