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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Soldier laid to rest
Corporal Allbutt's coffin
Corporal Allbutt's mother read the eulogy at the service

More than 100 veterans joined joined family and friends to honour a soldier killed by "friendly fire" in Iraq.

Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, died when his Challenger II tank was fired on by another British tank during fighting near Basra last month.

Relatives and friends gathered on Friday at the Holy Trinity Church in Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, where his mother is the vicar, to pay their last respects to the soldier on Friday.

The funeral cortege paused briefly near the statue of Sir Stanley Matthews in Hanley in tribute to Corporal Allbutt's life-long passion for Stoke City.

On arrival at the church, the veterans raised their various regimental standards while others saluted the cortege.

Six pallbearers from Corporal Allbutt's regiment, the Queen's Royal Lancers, met the soldier's widow, Debi, and their sons Josh, 14, and Connor, eight, at the entrance to the church, before bearing the coffin inside.

Colin and I knew Stephen as a special and much loved son
Rev Mavis Allbutt

The main service was led by Gordon Whitty, the former vicar of the church who conducted Corporal Allbutt's marriage to Debi in 1993 and baptised the couple's children.

Corporal Allbutt's mother Mavis said in the eulogy: "We celebrate not just a hero who gave his life for his country.

"We, his natural family and friends, had the privilege of knowing him in such a closer way.

Rev Allbutt, who was joined by her husband Colin, added: "Colin and I knew Stephen as a special and much loved son.

"Right from the moment we first saw him we knew he was a gift from God."

Corporal Allbutt's funeral procession
The procession passed a statue of football great Sir Stanley Matthews

She described how her son could be very stubborn but also very honest, generous and kind hearted.

By reading the eulogy, Rev Allbutt was fulfilling a promise she had made to her son before he left for the Gulf.

Finishing her tribute she said she would leave the mourners with a message her son always left at the end of every telephone conversation since returning from the first conflict in the Gulf.

He said simply 'love ya'.

The family of Trooper David Clarke, who was killed alongside Corporal Allbutt, also attended the funeral.

The funeral of Trooper Clarke, 19, was held on Thursday.

Corporal Allbutt joined the 16th/5th The Queen's Royal Lancers in 1989, and saw action on Operation Desert Storm in early 1991.

After the regiment was amalgamated into the present Queen's Royal Lancers, he was deployed on operations in Bosnia on three separate occasions, while developing his career as a non-commissioned officer in an armoured regiment.

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