Town and village left shaken by further soldier tragedy

VILLAGERS have flooded a market cross with floral tributes as an outpouring of emotion begins following the death of “hero” soldier Jonathan Woodgate.

Tributes have been laid in the centre of Lavenham, where the popular senior army officer lived, and Bury St Edmunds - the town where he was born - is mourning yet another casualty of Afghanistan.

Lyn Gurling, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council, said she had watched L/Cpl Woodgate grew up in the village, realising his dream to be a top commanding soldier.

She said: “He came here with his mother when he was a young teenager and my husband John used to talk to him and he used to say ‘when I grew up I want to be in the army’.”

Mr Gurling had replied he would need to lose a bit of weight and start training, which he soon did.

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“A lot of people in Lavenham yesterday were in tears and having hugs around the Market Place and a lot of people who knew the family said ‘what can we do’ and we have placed flowers on the market cross. I have written in my card he is a hero and will not be forgotten.

“He was a wonderful young man...he was due to come home Wednesday and I understand he was going to be a recruiting officer. He will be sorely missed.”

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The 26-year-old, who went to Great Cornard Upper School, before embarking on his career in the armed forces, was often seen sharing a drink and a joke with his friends in the village’s pubs.

Mrs Gurling added: “He had a good group of friends and they are devastated.”

A minute’s silence was held in Lavenham’s church, which was packed out as people turned out to pay their respects, yesterday.

Daphne Fayers, president of the Women’s Section of the Royal British Legion, said: “I think Lavenham is absolutely stunned, you do not think it is going to happen in your village, it is heartbreaking.”

She added: “I think the troops should come out.”

Pat Warby, mayor of St Edmundsbury, had harrowingly predicted at 20-year-old Luke Southgate’s funeral in Bury St Edmunds 10 days ago there would be more to follow. She had never envisaged another west Suffiolk funeral - with Bury connections - would be coming so soon.

“I just dread now hearing that another one from Bury St Edmunds has died - I hate to hear anybody has been kiled out there,” she said. “I can only say our thoughts are with the family, I really do fear for those left behind, all we can do is let them know we will support all the lads in anyway we can.”

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