Mother’s sadness at death of former soldier from Dereham

The mother of a globetrotting career soldier whose body was found at his home has told of her sadness that the family had lost contact despite trying to help him address health problems.

Iris Coe said her son Roy, who earned the British Empire Medal for his service to his country, had been troubled in recent times by a swollen neck and face, as well as throat problems that had left him with a croaky voice. But he declined offers of help and was reluctant to see a doctor, becoming more and more apart from family members who loved him.

The funeral service of the former British Army warrant officer will take place on Thursday (January 19) at All Saints' Church, Mattishall, 11am, followed by interment in the churchyard a short distance away at Mattishall Burgh.

Mr Coe, 61, was found at his home in Lesley Walk, Toftwood, on December 22. At an inquest last week, his sister, Megan Hutchinson, said she had last spoken to him on the telephone on October 2. She said she contacted police on December 22 because she had been to Mr Coe's home and could see a carpet of mail building up.

An officer who went to Mr Coe's home found his body.


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Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said a post-mortem examination did not ascertain the cause of death. There was no evidence of Mr Coe being alive since October, there was no reason to believe there were any suspicious circumstances and it was likely he died of natural causes.

Mrs Coe, 87, Mattishall's former village postmistress, said her son had followed his father Eric into the army, sharing the wanderlust that had gone with his service career. After signing up at 16 in 1966, he went into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in administrative roles.

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He served in Singapore, before moving to the then East Pakistan – later Bangladesh – to assist senior diplomats at around the time of the bloody war that led to millions of refugees fleeing to India.

'It was a responsible job going there. When he arrived it was fairly quiet but there were dead bodies in the streets,' said Mrs Coe.

After a stint in Brussels serving at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, for which he received a certificate of appreciation, the then Cpl Coe was sent to the Middle East. While there, like his father before him, he was posted to the Iranian capital, Tehran; the Ayatollah Khomeini had returned from exile and the US hostages crisis had been making headlines worldwide.

'At one point, they evacuated most of the people at the British Embassy and just left a skeleton staff. Roy was one of that skeleton staff, finishing up by being an acting military attache,' said his mother. 'He was able to telephone us from there just to reassure us he was OK, but of course we were quite worried.

'In the end, I think they had to get out of the embassy in a hurry and leave personal belongings behind.'

He later served on the Falkland Islands after their successful recapture before ending his service career in Berlin in 1990.

While based in West Germany, he was award his BEM in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1978, his citation mentioning his admirable standards. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal a year earlier.

Mrs Coe, who lives at Mattishall, said her son gained a temporary job in the library at the University of East Anglia but struggled to find permananent work in civvy street. 'He looked for part-time work in the Dereham area but there was nothing for him, really,' she added. To occupy himself he researched the family history. And, although taciturn by nature, he seemed in good spirits until he suffered the health problems.

'The last time he came here he was smiling and waved as he went out to catch the bus and seemed quite normal. But then he stopped coming,' she said.

Mr Coe, who never married, leaves sisters Megan and Rosemary and a brother, Eric junior.

His mother said they were proud of Roy. 'He was a good son and he did his job well,' she added.

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