Funeral salutes 'inspirational' soldier

GALLERY A “fiercly proud” soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan was remembered today as an “inspiration” to others.

A “FIERCELY proud” soldier who died while serving in Afghanistan was remembered today as an “inspiration” to others.

Lance Corporal James Bateman, of Colchester, Essex, was killed by enemy fire while on a routine foot patrol in Helmand Province on June 12.

Today about 500 mourners packed into St Peter's Church, Colchester to salute the 29-year-old, known as "J'.

His widow, Victoria Bateman, in a statement read on her behalf by her uncle, Kevan Russell, said there were “no words to express my grief”.

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She added: “I don't know what the future holds - none of us do. I only hope and pray that a little piece of James remains with me.”

During the service, the Metallica hit Nothing Else Matters was played, which had been the first dance at their wedding two years ago.

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L/Cpl Bateman's father, Keith, also read a eulogy to the youngest of his three sons.

He said: “We are here today to honour J's name. All who have had the privilege of knowing J will appreciate what a very special man he was - loving and supportive of his family, devoted to his wife, Victoria, and fiercely proud of the Parachute Regiment.”

Lieutenant Samuel Aiken, speaking on behalf of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, said: “He was a man with two families - his own and the regiment. He loved them both equally.”

He added: “He a rock and a pillar of strength. Those under his charge looked up to him. He was a source of inspiration to those junior to him.”

The service was told one of L/Cpl Bateman's brothers had become a father on June 13 - the day after the tragedy in Afghanistan.

And Mr Bateman said the child had been named after L/Cpl Bateman.

He said his grandson would “walk tall and bristle with pride” when he was “old enough to understand”.

Mr Bateman continued: “I know there are tears and heartbreak but the full significance of what you achieved in your short life comes shining through.”

L/Cpl Bateman's coffin, draped in a Union Jack flag, was carried into church along with his campaign medals and beret.

Opening the service, The Rev Mark Haldon-Jones, padre of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “Today is not only a day tinged with sadness, it's also a day tinged with honour.”

He spoke of L/Cpl Bateman's achievements in serving in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

Mr Bateman said his middle son, Richard, had been serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan at the time of the tragedy.

"It's a great comfort to us that your brother Richard... was able to accompany you back to England,” said Mr Bateman.

Richard read The Soldier, a poem by Rupert Brooke, during the service, while his oldest brother, Graham, read a Bible passage, as his voice broke with emotion.

Following the service, the funeral cortege passed through Colchester High Street, where spontaneous applause broke out among the hundreds of people who lined the streets.

The coffin was then taken to Colchester Crematorium for a private committal with full military honours.

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