Soldier’s last ride – bike escort accompanies Suffolk veteran’s funeral
PUBLISHED: 15:14 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:43 09 March 2020
Military veterans and bikers rallied round to provide a fitting send off for a former Suffolk soldier.
Andrew 'Paddy McGowan' Devine served in Northern Ireland during The Troubles in the 1980s and 1990s with 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment - also known as The Vikings.
His send off was arranged free of charge by David Button funeral directors after the Royal British Legion in Felixstowe found out Paddy was due a 'paupers funeral' as he had died alone and without family at the age of just 53.
David Button, owner of the funeral directors, is also a former Viking and said: 'When the Legion got in contact I wanted to make sure we gave Paddy a proper send off and the response has been amazing with so many people offering help.'
The hearse bearing his coffin, draped in the Union flag, was accompanied by an escort of motorcyclists as it left Felixstowe, arriving at Ipswich Crematorium for the service and then on to the Army Reserve Centre in Woodbridge Road for the wake.
Many former colleagues came forward to pay their respects to the soldier who had made Ipswich his home town, describing him as 'fantastic' and 'mischievous'.
Tony Botterill served with Paddy in Northern Ireland after meeting him during their training in June 1983 and remained close with him, speaking to him just weeks before he died.
'He was an absolutely mischievous boy he was,' he recalled.
'Always looking for excitement and fun as well as being a great solider, but he'd fallen on hard times in recent years.'
Paddy had recently taken and passed a forklift driving test in a bid to secure work, however his health had declined in recent months.
Darren Marsh was another member of The Vikings who served with Paddy in Londonderry and remembered him as 'larger than life'.
'He was a fantastic bloke and what we know as a serious soldier - so any new guys coming in he would take them under his wing and help them out.
'Paddy had some trouble getting back on his feet after the army and I think he just got a bit lost in it all.'
Darren, Tony and their fellow colleagues all attended the funeral which turned into a reunion of sorts for the self proclaimed 'band of brothers'