Hundreds at funeral for fallen Blackburn Royal Marine
Mourners said farewell today to a "brave young warrior" and a "first class Marine of rare quality" shot dead in Afghanistan.
More than 1,000 people packed into Blackburn Cathedral with several hundred more - including town centre shoppers - pausing to pay their respects to Marine David Fairbrother outside.
The 24-year-old serviceman from Blackburn was killed last month while deployed in support of an Afghan National Army patrol in the village of Old Khorgajat in the southern Helmand province.
Marine Fairbrother joined up in November 2009 and was a qualified team medic with Kilo Company, 42 Commando.
Some of his colleagues acted as pallbearers as his coffin, draped with a Union Flag with his regimental peaked cap, belt and ISAF medal on top, was brought into church.
Heading the procession inside were his mother, Julie, his sisters Ruth and Emily, and girlfriend Melissa Shine.
His friend Ben Fry read WH Auden’s famous poem ‘Stop All The Clocks’ to more than 1,200 mourners, and fought back tears at the poignant line “I thought our friendship would last for ever: I was wrong.”
The eulogy, given by Lt Col Ewen Murchison, commanding officer of 42 Commando, said David, of Beardwood Brow, would now join ‘an illustrious list of legends, the bravest of the brave’.
He said: “He had many friends who loved him as a colleague and brother-in-arms, and his loss is nothing short of tragic and devastating.
"42 Commando have been robbed of another brave young warrior and his death is felt deeply across the whole of the unit.
"He is gone, but his sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
Ellie Goulding’s version of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was played because David had included the lyrics in one of his letters to Melissa from Afghanistan.
The Very Rev Christopher Armstrong, Dean of Blackburn, spoke movingly about David and the war in which he lost his life last month when he was shot on patrol in Helmand Province.
Mr Armstrong said: “As he prepared to return to Afghanistan after a short break, his mother glimpsed that deep-down fear in David, as only mothers can. “He knew that he was engaged on serious business, but would see it through, whatever the personal cost.
“Tragedies such as this raise within us all manner of sharp questions politically, philosophically, and emotionally.
"We know it was a tough decision to go to war in Afghanistan in the first place – a war which we so often observe at a safe distance on our TV screens.
"But it is moments like this, when the terrors of war break into our hearts, our homes, and our communities, that we realise the cost of it all.
“The whole town and region has been waiting patiently for this moment when we can stand alongside David’s mother, his sisters, and his girlfriend, to share with them something of their grief.”
Melissa read a short prayer which spoke of David’s ‘brief span of years lived to the full’ and ‘gifts of character so freely shared with others’.
She said: “We thank you for his life lived doing the job he loved, for his bravery and for giving his life in the service of his country.”
Mum Julie offered thanks for the ‘bond we shared as mother and son’, and to his ‘devotion to Melissa’ and ‘love of his sisters Ruth and Emily’.
She said: “As we come to terms with his untimely death, we pray that we will not be overwhelmed by grief and loss.
"Instead, with pride in his courage, we help each other through our tears and pain, as he would have wished.”
Jerusalem rang out around the cathedral and, as people old and young, dabbed at their eyes, The Last Post filled the room and a minute’s silence brought the service to a close.
A spontaneous round of applause rippled out from those stood outside as the cortege left the cathedral grounds. He was buried, with full military honours, at St Peter’s Church, in Salesbury.