Massive turnout expected for Dereham hero’s funeral

Hundreds of mourners are expected to line the streets of Dereham tomorrow (Wednesday March 2) to honour the sacrifice of a popular young paratrooper.

Pte Lewis Hendry, who was killed in Afghanistan three days before his 21st birthday, will be buried with full military honours in his home town.

His death, on February 9, prompted an outpouring of grief in Dereham, where countless tributes have been left in a condolence book at Northgate High School, and with floral wreaths placed on the town's war memorial.

Both his funeral service, which begins at 1.30pm in St Nicholas' Church, and the committal ceremony at Northgate Cemetery will remain private, for family members and close friends.

But the Hendry family have encouraged people to pay their respects by lining the route of the funeral cortege as it leaves for the soldier's poignant final journey through the town.

The cortege will leave the church at about 2.15pm following the service and will move at walking pace along Church Street, turning left onto the market place, followed on foot by a party of family, friends and invited guests.

It will pass the town's war memorial before turning right along Theatre Street, and is expected to arrive at the cemetery at 2.35pm.

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Church and civic leaders have also urged people to break from home or work routines and unite in a display of town pride.

A military guard of honour comprising Pte Hendry's comrades from the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment will form at the entrance to the church, and a volley of shots will be fired at his graveside during the committal.

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

It will be conducted by the Archdeacon of Lynn, the Ven John Ashe, assisted by the Rector of Dereham, Canon Sally Theakston – a former Royal Navy chaplain who said: '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. We want to make sure people come out in strength to show support for Lewis and his family.'

A series of rolling road closures will be enforced by police to minimise traffic delays, starting at 1pm from the Sandy Lane junction with Swaffham Road as the cortege travels to the church. Norfolk County Council has also agreed to suspend planned roadworks on Theatre Street until March 3 as a mark of respect.

?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 today.