Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Thousands mourn 'gentle' Fusilier

Fusilier Lee Rigby, 25, was murdered in Woolwich in May
Hundreds of people lined the streets as the soldier's coffin was taken to Bury Parish Church
The coffin of Fusilier Lee Rigby was carried into Bury Parish Church for a vigil the night before his funeral

The young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby joined thousands of mourners in remembering a "gentle soul" and "larger-than-life character".

In searing heat, the image of two-year-old Jack holding his mother's hand outside the church as he wore a T-shirt with the tribute "My Daddy My Hero" shone in the poignant service.

The heartbroken family of Fusilier Rigby and Prime Minister David Cameron were among about 800 people packed inside Bury Parish Church to honour the 25-year-old in a private funeral which was relayed via loudspeakers to large crowds.

In his eulogy to Fusilier Rigby, his commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor spoke of an "extremely popular soldier" who was known as "Riggers" to his friends. Fusilier Rigby joined the Army in 2006. In London with the Second Fusiliers he conducted ceremonial duties outside Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.

In April 2009 he put his drum down and picked up his machine gun when the Second Fusiliers deployed to Afghanistan. It was a "gruelling tour" for the battalion with seven soldiers killed in six months. Lt Col Taylor said: "He took part in numerous firefights with the enemy and regularly had to patrol across ground strewn with improvised explosive devices. His courage was tested every day. He was not found wanting."

The commanding officer said: "We have a saying in our regiment that 'once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier'. Today we, his regimental family, salute a fallen comrade. A talented soldier and musician. A larger-than-life character. A loyal friend and brother-in-arms. A gentle soul. Above all, a true Fusilier - daring in all things. We all feel his loss keenly. We will remember him with pride always.

"Today we stand shoulder to shoulder with his family and friends. We will continue to do so in the years to come. So, thanks be to God for Lee Rigby - father, husband, son, brother, friend, Fusilier. We will remember him."

Fusilier Rigby's coffin, draped in the Union flag and with his bearskin on top, was borne out of the church by six pall bearers in ceremonial scarlet tunics and placed in the hearse for his final journey.

His wife Rebecca, 30, mother Lyn, 46, stepfather Ian, 54, and Rebecca's mother, Susan Metcalfe, 60, watched from the steps, his young son Jack clutching his mother's hand and looking bewildered as he scanned the crowds outside. Fusilier Rigby's mother fought back tears, holding her husband's hand, and spontaneous applause rang out as the family left after the service and the hearse drove away.

Three of his four sisters - Sara, 24, Chelsea, 21, and Courtney, 12, also attended the service as did the soldier's girlfriend, Aimee West, who was dressed in Army uniform. A private committal followed the service which was attended only by close family and friends.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz