Lee Rigby: Military funeral for killed soldier

Crowds at the funeral of Fusilier Lee Rigby Thousands lined the streets of Bury and Middleton to pay their respects to Fusilier Rigby

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The prime minister and thousands of mourners have attended the military funeral of Fusilier Lee Rigby at Bury Parish Church in Greater Manchester.

The 25-year-old soldier, from Middleton, was killed in Woolwich, south-east London, in May.

His commanding officer Lt Col Jim Taylor said in a eulogy Lee had been "a true regimental character".

After the service his body was driven along roads lined by mourners for a private burial at Middleton Cemetery.

'Good people'

The soldier's family were greeted by applause as they arrived with his son wearing a T-shirt showing the words 'My Daddy My Hero'.

They have thanked people "across the world" for their "overwhelming support".

Fusilier Rigby's wife Rebecca said: "There are so many kind and generous people out there.

"It's just horrible that it takes something such as this to make you see how many good people there are."

Thousands applauded as a mark of respect as Lee Rigby's coffin was taken for a private burial, as Ed Thomas reports

Fusilier Rigby's body was guarded overnight during a vigil at the church by 32 members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

The funeral service, which was relayed to those gathered outside, began with a silent tribute from the crowds in the streets around the church at about 11:00 BST.

Among those gathered were hundreds of serving and former soldiers in their regimental ties, blazers and caps, wearing their campaign medals.

They applauded the arrival of David Cameron who was accompanied by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

'Lighten the mood'

Inside the church, Fusilier Rigby was described as a "fantastic soldier" by his commanding officer.

At the scene

Outside Bury Parish Church the town was at a standstill, with most of the shops closed as mark of respect.

The soldier's family were met with applause as they arrived, before the crowds fell silent as the funeral began.

Many were carrying single roses and some wore T-shirts bearing messages of tribute to the drummer.

One read "in memory of Lee Rigby never forgotten", while another simply had the phrase "Hero Lee" upon it.

After the service, some of those on the streets broke into a rendition of God Save The Queen as the funeral car departed, while many more repeated their applause for the Rigby family.

Lt Col Jim Taylor of the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers said Lee was "larger than life [and] was always at the centre of fun and mischief, but he was a true regimental character with real charisma and everybody fell under his spell".

"To be with Lee was to be where it was most fun - the centre of good times and much mischief," he said.

"People fell quickly under his spell. Whether it was in work or off duty, at a ceremonial engagement or on operations, Lee just knew how to lighten the mood.

"He could brighten a room within moments and, by all accounts, clear a dancefloor in seconds if a Whitney Houston track was playing."

He added Fusilier Rigby had "a natural swagger and the confidence of someone truly comfortable in their own skin".

"He was always happy. His smile was infectious, as was his enthusiasm for soldiering and his passion for life."

He also spoke of Fusilier Rigby's military service and said he had "proved himself to be dedicated, professional and incredibly brave".

"His courage was tested every day. He was not found wanting."

The eulogy was met with applause inside and outside the church.

Military chaplain the Reverend Clare Callanan spoke of the impact of the soldier's death on the "hearts and minds of family, of friends and of a nation".

She said it was an event which had caused "outrage, horror, anger" but had also shown "the courage of individuals" and brought faiths together.

'Happy memories'

Asked before the funeral about how Fusilier Rigby would like to be remembered, Mrs Rigby said: "Lee always wanted his service to be a time that people would remember him and shed the tears, but then he always said a remembrance of his life.

Fusilier Lee Rigby Fusilier Rigby's stepfather said he had been a "fun-loving lad and that is how he should be remembered"

"He wanted people to enjoy that and sit and talk about happy days and happy memories they have got of Lee and the things he used to do and say because he was always so full of life."

Stepfather Ian Rigby said: "I think today should be a celebration of Lee's life, what he has meant to us.

"Lee was a fun-loving lad and that is how he should be remembered."

As the funeral began, soldiers gathered outside Woolwich Barracks where Fusilier Rigby was killed and the Last Post, a call traditionally performed at military funerals, was played by a bugler.

The regular morning summer train service between Fort William and Mallaig, hauled by the steam loco 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier, also paused for two minutes on the Glenfinnan Viaduct as a mark of respect.

The engine is owned and run by Ian Riley, whose engineering works are on the East Lancs Railway in Bury.

Members of the public lined the route from Bury to Middleton on police and council-designated "suitable roads".

Michael Adebolajo, 28, from Romford, east London, and Michael Adebowale, 22, from Greenwich, south-east London, are accused of Fusilier Rigby's murder.

Mr Adebolajo is also accused of the attempted murder of two police officers and possession of a firearm with intent to cause others to believe that violence would be used.

Extract from army Padre Rev Clare Callanan's address

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