Funeral held for military policeman

THE funeral of one of six Military Policemen killed in Iraq has been held in Colchester.Corporal Paul Long, 24, from the town, was one of the six Royal Military Policemen killed in an attack on a police station on June 24.

THE funeral of one of six Military Policemen killed in Iraq has been held in Colchester.

Corporal Paul Long, 24, from the town, was one of the six Royal Military Policemen killed in an attack on a police station on June 24.

The full military funeral was held at the Garrison Church close to where he was based with the 156 Provost Company, part of 16 Air Assault Brigade in Colchester.

Several hundred mourners, including family, friends and colleagues of the soldier, attended the Roman Catholic service in the white wooden church.

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Corporal Long was originally from South Shields, South Tyneside.

During the service a poem was read out by a fellow soldier, which Corporal Long had asked to be sent to his wife Gemma in the event of his death while in Iraq.

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It is thought the group of soldiers had been attempting to defend the police station at Al Majar al-Kabir after a confrontation with locals over what they claimed were heavy-handed weapons searches conducted by troops, and the use of plastic bullets against them.

Traffic was stopped while the hearse was driven towards the church, preceded by three military police outriders and two police cars, one of them from the military police.

The hearse was covered on the roof and inside with floral tributes, many of them in red, the colour of the RMP beret.

The tributes included a large replica of a border collie dog, and the words Daddy and Huney in flowers.

Cpl Long's coffin was draped in the Union Flag with his forage cap and regimental belt placed on top.

The funeral took place two days before his 25th birthday.

As the coffin was removed from the hearse by members of the RMP, his wife Gemma, 23, began crying and had to be supported by her family. The couple have a one-year-old son Ben.

The funeral was also attended by his mother Patricia, his sister Maria and brother Byron. A Requiem Mass had already been held at a Roman Catholic Church in South Shields.

Major Bryn Parry-Jones, Officer Commanding 156 Provost Company, said before the service: "Corporal Long was an extremely diligent, extremely hard working individual who put 110% into everything he did.

"He clearly relished his job as a military policeman and was clearly very proud to wear the scarlet beret and work as a Red Cap."

During the service, Father Mark O'Keeffe described Cpl Long as a "model example of service and compassion".

Sgt Neil Ashton, one of the soldier's colleagues, said: "Whatever task or job he was given he gave 110%. He was always enthusiastic and helped others.

"Myself and members of my unit have fond memories of Paul and are proud to have served with him."

Gemma Long's uncle, William Smith, read out a poem entitled To The Loved Ones I Left Behind, by Brian Fenton, which the soldier had expressly asked his regiment to send to his wife if he should die during active service.

The poem began: "The time has come for me to move on, leaving my loved ones, while I go on alone. I've left this earth, to go to another place, to where there is no suffering or pain."

The final verse of the poem read: "When your time comes, and again we reunite, I'll be waiting for you, be it day or night. Then you and I, will start a new dawning, goodnight, God bless, I love you, see you in the morning."

Following the service mourners moved on to Colchester Cemetery where Cpl Long was buried in the tree-lined grounds.

As a firing party fired three rounds over the grave, Gemma Long appeared to put her fingers in her ears. She then sobbed throughout the short ceremony.

The Last Post was played by a lone trumpeter.

Her father David Barker, from Colchester, read out a statement which said: "We are immensely proud of Paul. He died doing the job he loved and was so proud to wear is red beret. We take comfort from the fact that he was working to make things better for the people of Iraq and he died alongside friends and colleagues.

"He had such a generous nature and was always putting those who were less fortunate than himself first. Paul loved being in the Army. He was a dedicated and professional soldier, but he was also a committed family man and enjoyed spending time with his wife Gemma and son Ben, when he was at home.

"We are gradually coming to terms with Paul's death. He was a wonderful husband, father and son, we all loved him very dearly and will miss him terribly."

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