Gary Thompson, 51, and Graham Livingstone, 23, Senior Aircraftmen (SACs) in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, died in a roadside explosion outside Kandahar Airfield, the main Nato base in southern Afghanistan.

A coroner heard that the patrol had only one Ebex metal detector between six vehicles, meaning a vulnerable river crossing was not exhaustively scanned for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

SAC Thompson, from Sherwood, Nottingham, became the oldest serviceman to die in the conflict when the device detonated on April 13 last year. SAC Livingstone, from Glasgow, was also killed in the blast, which injured two other men.

The inquest in Trowbridge heard that the explosion occurred as the convoy was crossing back over the shallow river, having regrouped from performing split missions.

The first group over had been able to conduct some checks at the water, but it had not been able to carry out complete “Operation Barma” drills because the only metal detector was with the other team.

Senior Aircraftman Livingstone, nicknamed 'Livi', had served in Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

An avid Celtic fan, he was an amateur DJ in his spare time. He left behind a young son Kyle.

His mother Rosemary O'Neill, 50, said: "He was a wonderful, wonderful son. He was a wonderful person."

The two men were taking part in a patrol close to Kandahar Airfield as part of 3 Squadron's "Support Weapons Flight" when the Land Rover they were travelling in hit an explosive device.

SAC Thompson left behind a wife Jacqui and five daughters - Laurie, Aimee, Jordan, Jade and Kelly - who he said inspired him to fight the Taliban.

"Gary was more than our hero, he was the rock and foundation of our family," they said today.

"Words cannot express how much he was loved and how proud of him we are.

"Gary, you have had our hearts from the beginning and now they are yours forever."

Having served with the RAF in the 1970s, he went on to become a successful businessman, as managing director of Sherwood Ducting Ltd in Nottingham, which specialises in ventilation materials.

But he re-enlisted as a reservist in 2005, becoming a gunner and later a mortar man in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.