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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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Six hundred attend funeral of Cumbrian soldier killed in Afghanistan

Nothing loved is ever lost, mourners were told as they gathered at Carlisle Cathedral for the funeral of Sapper Darren Simon Foster.

Darren Foster funeral photo
The military funeral at Carlisle Cathedral of Sapper Darren Simon Foster

The 20-year-old was shot dead in Afghanistan on August 13 while manning a fortified position known as a Sangar. He had only been in the country for three weeks.

The sun shone down as about 600 people gathered to say goodbye to the soldier who had a “crazy, flamboyant lifestyle.”

Mourners lined the entrance to the cathedral and people having lunch on the grass stood up to pay their respects as the hearse and funeral cortege arrived shortly before 2pm yesterday. Old soldiers and current serving soldiers looked on.

As his coffin, draped with the union flag and floral wreaths, was carried into the cathedral, Bette Midler’s song Wind Beneath My Wings was played over speakers.

Before the service, Major Mick Hansekowitsch, Quartermaster, 21 Engineer Regiment, The Royal Engineers, said: “Darren had not been with us for long. He only joined the regiment in May.

“He was quickly sent out to Afghanistan in July with 21st Engineer Regiment.

“He was a good soldier and one you could trust. He very quickly displayed that he had bags of potential and he could have gone a long way.”

Sapper Foster, of Chesterholm, Sandsfield Park, was born in Whitehaven and lived in Workington and then Carlisle where he attended Yewdale, Morton and Trinity Schools.

Often known as Lloyd, he had a brief spell on a college catering course and a stint selling mobile phones before signing up for the Army in September 2008.

He passed out in February 2009 and went on to qualify as a combat engineer and military fabricator. He joined the Ripon-based 21 Engineer Regiment in May and flew out to Afghanistan in July.

In an emotional tribute Darren’s best friend Sapper Joe Wilkinson said: “He was funny, enthusiastic and very fit.

“He was a great soldier who has made us all very proud. He was a great cook, a great brother, friend, boyfriend and a great drinker.

“We were brothers in so many ways. The fact that he has gone hurts so much.

“We did everything that best mates did. We went to parties and Army parades, did sport and entertained females.

“Everyone is going to miss you so much. I never thought this day would come. It’s so hard.

“I want to thank you for everything that you did for me and for my family.

“We always said we would carry each other. In heaven keep partying until we are up there with you.”

Hymns during the 45-minute service included: Abide with me, The Lord’s My Shepherd and Onward Christian Soldiers. Readings were given by Darren’s brother Michael Foster and his grandmother Anne Sant.

Darren’s family said in a tribute read to mourners: “Darren had a zest for life. He was flamboyant and that is the word that best describes him.

“When he was very little he was always taking his clothes off – something which he never entirely gave up.

“He never stopped eating and had an immense appetite despite being all skin and bone.

“At school he enjoyed athletics, running and the javelin. He was 11th in the UK at javelin.

“He was flamboyant on the dance floor and often the centre of attention which he enjoyed being so.

“He loved socialising and high tech gadgets. He would buy the cheapest food for two weeks so he could save up his money for the latest gadgets.

“Food was skimped on but alcohol was not. He was a great young man whose life was cut far too short but who lived it to the full.”

His dad Shaun said: “He was non-stop – always on the go.”

The coffin left the cathedral to Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.

One of the floral tributes on the coffin said: “Darren, our loving son. Always in our hearts. Love you loads. Mam and Dad xxxxx

Another, from Sapper Foster’s girlfriend Hayley, said: “Wish we didn’t have to say goodbye so soon.

“Still can’t believe you’re gone. I’ll never forget you. You will always be in my thoughts.

“Miss you loads. Love you. Hayley xxxx

A private burial took place at Carlisle Cemetery and refreshments after were held at the Royal Scot in Morton.

Mourners at the funeral included Carlisle MP John Stevenson; Mayor Mary Styth; Maggie Mooney, chief executive of Carlisle City Council; councillor John Mallinson, deputy leader of the city council; Reg Watson, leader of the opposition Labour group on the city
council; Councillor Nan Farmer, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the city council and Alan Mottershead, headteacher of Trinity School.

Donations in memory of Darren were divided between Help the Heroes and the Royal British Legion (Carlisle Branch).

He leaves his family including his mum and dad Alison and Shaun and siblings Michael, Rachel, Paul, Christina and Carlton.

  • The News & Star attended the funeral with the permission of his family and the Ministry of Defence.

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