Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to NI soldier killed in Afghanistan

Thousands of people have lined the streets of Portadown for the funeral of a soldier from Northern Ireland killed in Afghanistan last month.

The service for Lieutenant Neal Turkington, 26, was held at St Mark's Parish Church in the town.

Six Gurkhas carried his coffin and eight formed a guard of honour as a lone piper walked ahead of the coffin.

Paying tribute, his commanding officer Major Andrew Todd described him as "a great leader".

Lieutenant Turkington was one of three servicemen from the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles killed by a renegade Afghan soldier.

Pride

He had been serving with his battalion in Nahr-e Saraj in Helmand province.

The other two soldiers killed in the attack were Major James Joshua Bowman, from Wiltshire, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, from Nepal.

Four soldiers were also injured.

During the service Bishop David Chillingworth, who personally knew Lt Turkington, said "the depth of our sorrow is surpassed only by our pride".

"We have heard the tributes - a man who could be trusted and a leader who spread quiet confidence among his men," he added.

"We gather today to share the love, the pride and the sorrow of his family.

"As a community, we honour him with our deep respect and our gratitude.

"He became the soldier who committed himself in the service of his country and, in the cause of freedom and peace, the trusted comrade who supported and inspired others.

Image caption Lieutenant Neal Turkington was killed in Afghanistan in July

Sacrifice

"We and our political leaders should reflect very carefully on all of this - on the cost and the sacrifice of young men and women who serve on our behalf as we strive to build peace in Afghanistan and across the world."

Lt Turkington was described as a humanitarian at heart who had travelled to El Salvador and Nepal to help provide basic infrastructure to impoverished communities.

After graduating from Imperial College, he completed officer training at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and received his commission in August 2008.

His first regimental posting was in Brunei as commander of 2 Platoon, The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

After the service, Lt Turkington's commanding officer, Major Andrew Todd, described his dead comrade as "an officer of exceptional quality".

He added: "He was a man with a deep sense of purpose to always do the right thing. He was a great leader.

"His Gurkha soldiers loved him as did all those who ever had the privilege to serve at his side.

"For his courage, his passion and his unwavering loyalty to his soldiers, he will never be forgotten."