Stoke & Staffordshire

Pte Gareth Bellingham funeral: Hundreds pay respects

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Newcastle-under-Lyme for the funeral of Private Gareth Bellingham, who was killed in Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was shot while on patrol in Helmand Province last month.

He was serving with 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The funeral took place at St George's Church and was held with full military honours. A message from his terminally ill mother was also read out.

The Reverend Maureen Tideswell, who led the service, said: "He was a very easy chap to get to know.

"What came about most was his loyalty, his pride, and the love that he shared with people."

'High regard'

Pte Bellingham was on patrol with the Afghan National Army when he was shot.

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Mark Brown said the Afghan recruits looked up to Gareth.

"There is that slight divide still between them [Afghan soldiers] and us, and for someone to get in with them - to the degree that he had - shows utter professionalism on his side.

"He was held in high regard by them and that's really difficult to do."

Pte Bellingham's mother, Suzanne Ash, could not attend because she is terminally ill. Her message was read out at the service.

It said: "There's a saying which every mother knows - when you were a baby, you would break my arms, now you are a man, you'd break my heart.

"Sleep now my beautiful boy, my heart struggles to beat, sleep now my handsome man, it won't be long until we meet."

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