Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Funeral for 'hero' Afghan soldier Kirkness


L/Cpl Kirkness was said to be a "very professional" soldier

Hundreds of people have gathered to pay their respects to a soldier who was killed trying to prevent a bomb attack on a marketplace in Afghanistan.

L/Cpl David Kirkness, 24, from Morley, West Yorkshire, was one of two soldiers who died on 15 December as they tried to prevent scores of people dying.

The soldier, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was described as a "hero" by his family after his death.

The crowd applauded as the funeral cortege arrived at Wakefield Cathedral.

There was silence as the crowd watched the soldier's three-year-old daughter, Brooke, walk through the guard of honour with his parents, Chris and Margaret.

L/Cpl Kirkness also leaves behind his girlfriend Mel Maclean, 31, and his 14-year-old brother Christopher, who was wearing his brother's Northern Ireland service medal.

In his own words - 'if you didn't know me, hard luck'
Canon Michael Rawson

Earlier, Brooke and Christopher were presented with L/Cpl Kirkness's Elizabeth Cross.

About 1,000 people stood outside in freezing conditions as the hour-long service was broadcast on speakers from the packed cathedral.

The crowd applauded again as the coffin was brought out, followed by L/Cpl Kirkness's family.

The family watched as the coffin was placed back in the hearse which had the words "Daddy" spelt out in flowers down the side.

L/Cpl Kirkness's brother Christopher and mother Margaret hold the hand of his daughter Brooke after his funeral service
The soldier's brother and his daughter were given his Elizabeth Cross

Schools Secretary Ed Balls, who is MP for nearby Normanton, was among the mourners alongside Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh.

During the service, the Sub Dean of Wakefield, Canon Michael Rawson, said: "He was the life and soul of any party. David was a loving and beautiful person who would help anyone if he could.

"He had a huge heart and we celebrate that today."

He added: "He was a larger-than-life character and it was impossible not to love him.

"In his own words - 'if you didn't know me, hard luck'."

Cpl Joe Farrar told the congregation that his close friend had the "gift of the gab", was a talented rugby player and was "the best mate a man could wish for".

The cortege later left Wakefield city centre for a private cremation at the town's crematorium.

L/Cpl Kirkness died as he tried to stop two suicide bombers on a motorbike blowing up a crowded marketplace outside Sangin, in Helmand province.

Another soldier, 18-year-old Rifleman James Brown, also died in the attack.

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