Call to line the streets for Norfolk hero’s funeral

The people of Dereham have been urged to put on a united display of town pride to honour the sacrifice of a heroic young paratrooper at his funeral service next week.

Pte Lewis Hendry, who was killed while on service in Afghanistan three days before his 21st birthday, will be buried with full military honours following a service at St Nicholas' Church at 1.30pm on Wednesday, March 2.

The popular soldier's family said they appreciated the 'overwhelming' support received since his death, and encouraged anyone who wants to pay their respects to line the route of the cortege when the soldier makes his final journey.

That rallying call was echoed by civic and church leaders who hope townspeople will turn out in their hundreds to make the occasion a fitting send-off for the local man described as 'a hero of Dereham'.

Although the route of the funeral procession has yet to be finalised, it is anticipated it will pass the war memorial on Market Place, and proceed along Church Street to the service.

A military guard of honour from the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment will be formed at the entrance to the church.

After the service, there will be a private committal for immediate family and close friends at Dereham Cemetery. A volley of shots will be fired at Pte Hendry's graveside.

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An MoD spokesman said: 'The Hendry family wish to pass on their thanks to the whole community for its support and for all the messages they have received.

'It has been overwhelming and deeply appreciated. The family has invited people who wish to pay their respects to line the route of the cortege.'

The service will be conducted by the Archdeacon of Lynn, the Ven John Ashe, who said he knew the family well and had been directly asked to take part by Pte Hendry's father, Kelvin.

'I think the family would be very touched if people came out to show their respects,' he said.

'The amount of people who have been in touch with the family reveal Lewis was an out-of-the-ordinary young man.

'He really was a son of the town. He was born and brought up in Dereham, all his schooldays were here and he touched a lot of lives.

'These young men are putting their lives on the line for peace and, whether or not people knew him personally, there is a wider sense of gratitude and it makes it an occasion where other people are remembered as well.'

Mr Ashe will be assisted by the Rector of Dereham, Canon Sally Theakston, a former Royal Navy chaplain, who said the town's military links with the Light Dragoons, based nearby at Swanton Morley, should ensure a large attendance.

'While people recognise a tremendous sadness on the death of such a young man who is so closely associated with Dereham, we are proud of the contribution this town has made within the armed forces,' she said. 'We want to make sure people come out in strength to show support for Lewis and his family.'

Also attending the service will be senior military officers, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson, and town dignitaries including mayor Robert Hambidge.

Mr Hambidge said the volume and warmth of the tributes which flowed in memory of Pte Hendry – through online condolence pages, written cards and floral wreaths – proved the young soldier's popularity.

'When you see the number of tributes which have been made you begin to understand the sort of affection in which Pte Hendry was held by so many people in Dereham,' he said. 'Everyone will have some sort of connection with him.

'You can see it on television all the time but it is not until it is only when someone from your own town is killed that it brings the horrors of war home.

'I am certain that the town will get behind the event. I will be disappointed if there is not a line of people all the way from St Nick's to the cemetery. Dereham will play it is part, and will do Pte Hendry proud – of that I have no doubt.'

The service will be preceded by a sombre half-muffled peal by bell-ringers at the church tower, lasting up to 45 minutes

Pte Hendry, known as Lewy, was killed in a gun battle on February 9 while carrying out a security patrol in Helmand province with the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

?The Hendry family has requested no flowers, but for donations to be made to the Afghanistan Trust, which helps support wounded Parachute Regiment soldiers and the families of those killed in combat. Donations can be made by visiting www.afghanistantrust.org or via RJ Bartram Funeral Directors, 17 Theatre Street, Dereham, who will collect donations until April 30. Collections will also be made at St Nicholas Church on the day of the funeral.