Kent, England, UK
Captain, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps
1/11/2010, Helmand, Afghanistan
Final respects have been paid to “the ultimate soldier’s officer”, who was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan weeks after returning to the front line from being injured in another blast.
Hundreds of mourners, including family, friends and colleagues, joined to celebrate the life of Cornish bomb disposal expert Captain Daniel Read at a military funeral at Truro Cathedral yesterday.
Less than three months earlier, Capt Read had been among those at Truro Cathedral paying respects to another of the Westcountry’s fallen heroes, his friend and colleague Staff Sgt Olaf Schmid, who died while attempting to diffuse an improvised roadside bomb in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on October 31.
Yesterday, under the grey skies of a February morning, it was for Capt Read that the tears were shed. The 31-year-old, from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, based in Oxfordshire, was killed in a blast in the Musa Qala area in the north of Helmand Province on January 11.
Family and friends from his home in St Columb Road, near Newquay, and those based in Oxfordshire and in Kent where he grew up, gathered to pay their final respects to the man described by his commanding officer, Major Kier Head as “an emperor amongst men”.
Those passers-by who had been unaware of Capt Read’s military funeral were immediately appreciative of the gravity of the situation as they approached the cathedral. Even before three police bikes silently escorted the funeral cortege into view, hundreds of mourners lined Pydar Street and King Street, keen to pay their respects to their hero. The crowds swelled as families, some with young children, stopped for more than half an hour to wait in silence while Capt Read’s close family and friends entered the service.
Widow Lorraine, a police traffic officer known to friends as Lou, stood tall and dignified despite carrying the weight of hundreds of pairs of eyes on her as her husband’s coffin, decked with green beret, belt and sword, entered the cathedral.
Inside the building, Major Head described Capt Read’s dedication to the job, returning to duty three months after being injured by another roadside bomb.
“Dan lived life to the full, enriching lives of those around him and saving numerous British and Afghan lives by being prepared to lead from the front, to stand up and be counted,” Maj Head said.
The best man at the Reads’ wedding, Daved Kirby, told tales of how he and his friend became Army Cadets as 12-year-olds, and that the only things in his life more important than his job were his wife and dogs.
Mr Kirby said: “I had never seen Dan happier than on his wedding day. He was a joker, a real character and a natural leader of men.”
Hymns chosen for the service included Jerusalem, Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory and I Vow To Thee, My Country. The Last Post then echoed around the grand Cathedral before Capt Read’s coffin was led out of the building and on to a private service for close family and friends.
Outside, the hundreds of people who had stood patiently before the hour-long service began could be seen in equal number, ready to say a silent goodbye to their hero. It was left to Maj Wayne Davidson, commanding officer of Capt Read’s squadron, to pay one last tribute.
“Dan was a highly competent, dedicated and, most importantly, loyal officer. He was the ultimate soldier’s officer.”