HUNDREDS of mourners lined the streets of a South Yorkshire town to pay their respects to fallen Afghanistan hero Sgt Lee Davidson.
The centre of Thorne, in Doncaster, came to a standstill yesterday as family, friends and scores of residents gathered for the funeral of the 32-year-old, killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the war zone last month.
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And pregnant wife Samantha, who cradled the couple’s two young sons Jayden and Jamie throughout the service at the town’s St Nicholas Church, led the tributes to her husband, buried with full military honours, describing him as “the man of her dreams.”
In a moving recorded message played to the church and relayed to the crowds braving the wind and showers outside on loud speakers, she said: “We had five-and-a-half years of great fun, love and memories and I will tell our children all of them.
“One day we will meet again. Until we do, I’m never letting you go. Love you always and forever.”
Many shops in the town had closed as a mark of respect for the funeral of Sgt Davidson, 32, of the Light Dragoons, who died weeks before he was due to head home from his second tour of duty in the country.
He had been looking forward to returning in time for the birth of the couple’s third child.
Flags also flew at half-mast for Sgt Davidson, who became the 427th British casualty in the country when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in the Nahr-e Saraj district on September 9.
Mourners young and old packed the narrow streets leading to the church and the crowds fell silent as Sgt Davidson’s comrades slowly lifted his coffin - draped in the Union flag - from the hearse which carried floral tributes which spelled out “I love you” and “Daddy.”
Soldiers from Sgt Davidson’s regiment, some of whom only arrived back in Britain from Afghanistan hours before the service, joined Chelsea Pensioners and standard bearers from the Royal British Legion.
They formed an armed guard s his coffin was carried into the same church where he married Samantha only last summer.
The service, led by the Reverend David Green, included the hymns All Things Bright And Beautiful, Sing Hosanna and Jerusalem as well as a reading of a letter written by Sgt Davidson ahead of his death.
Displaying a sense of humour in the letter, read by friend James Walker, he said: “If a vicar or one of my friends is reading this, all I can say is ‘whoops, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
The letter also paid tribute to his mum and three sisters and, of his two sons, he said: “You have been my world since you were born. I love you so, so much.”
Speaking of his wife Samantha, about seven months pregnant with the couple’s little girl, he said: “I will miss you the most. Thank you for making me the happiest man in the world. I love you. Goodbye, God bless and love you all. I will watch out for you. Don’t be scared.”
As Sgt Davidson’s coffin was lifted back into the hearse for a private burial ceremony at the nearby Stonegate cemetery, the crowd broke into spontaneous applause and many walked behind, carrying their own floral tribute and wiping away the tears, with pupils from Thorne’s Trinity Academy among them. Soldiers fired a volley over the grave while a bugler sounded the Last Post.