HE was the life and soul of the party.
And yesterday friends of Private Daniel Wilford told how he would be ‘dancing in heaven’ as they attended his funeral at Huddersfield Parish Church.
Pte Wilford ‘an exceptional warrior gunner’ was one of six – including three from Huddersfield – to be killed by a massive improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in March.
His funeral cortege made its way through Huddersfield shortly after midday yesterday amid applause from the crowds who lined the streets to pay their respects.
His coffin, draped in a union flag, was carried in to St Peter’s Church by his family and friends as Meat Loaf’s ‘Heaven Can Wait’ echoed out on speakers.
Vicar of Huddersfield, the Rev Canon Simon Moor, led the service and told how the 21-year-old from Cowlersley had hankered after a career in the military from a young age.
But at his own request his funeral did not carry full military honours because in a letter to be opened in the event of his death to his parents he told them ‘he wasn’t one for pomp and ceremony.’
A moving eulogy followed, given by Major Malcolm Birkett, Daniel’s commanding officer in the 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.
He said: “Danny’s self discipline, positive attitude and hard work earned him the respect of his peers.
“In the words of his company commander he was an exceptional warrior gunner whose calmness put many a commanding officer to shame.
“It gave everyone in his team a confidence knowing he was their gunner.
“He was deeply popular. He was a fantastic team player. He had nothing but time for everyone. If you needed a smile, he was the one you went to see.”Related content
The packed church and those assembled in St Peter’s Garden’s heard how Danny would ‘light up a room’ with his love of dancing.
He continued: “Danny loved to dance – and he would lead by example. When the ice needed breaking at any pub or club he would get on the dancefloor first.”
One of his close friends described him as ‘the consummate professional’.
Further tributes from close friends read: “He was the life and soul of the party. We know you will be up there dancing in heaven, blasting out Sean Paul.
“Wilf lived for today and always looked to the future.”
“We’ve lost part of the family that can never be replaced.
“He gave his life for us and we are proud of even knowing his name.
“He will always be in our hearts, minds, till the next time we meet.”
The Rev Moor said Danny’s mother, Diane Sharples, had told him of her son’s love of animals and his early stint at gymnastics ‘before football took over.’
She told how he had a close relationships with his family, including grandparents and his younger brother Alex, especially since his father’s death in 2009.
The hymns Onward, Christian Soldiers and All Things Bright and Beautiful were sung during the hour-long service.
The cortege left the church and then proceeded to a committal service at Huddersfield Crematorium followed by a wake at Golcar Royal British Legion.
Pte Wilford’s funeral is the third funeral of a Huddersfield soldier to be held in Huddersfield this week.
Also killed in the attack were Cpl Jake Hartley, 20, of New Mill; Pte Antony Frampton, 18, of Longwood; Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19, Pte Daniel Wade, 20, all also of 3 Yorks, and Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
FIVE of the six soldiers were from 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and one was from 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
Sgt Russell Martin wrote this poem to remember them.
Northern Roses by Sgt Martin:
Six Northern roses, five white and one red,
Came home on aircraft in pine for a bed.
Their country they served, their life blood they bled,
Just like the heroes in whose footsteps they tread.
Against in their raid, the enemy ranks,
Six northern men; five Yorks and one Lancs
All trained to fight from their warrior tanks.
Heroes all six, to them we give thanks.
Six Northern comrades no longer grow older,
Like millions before them they stand shoulder to shoulder
With one’s gone before soldiers, sailors, airmen;
Our countries best youths they couldn’t have been bolder.
Six northern heroes make 404,
Whose families and friends forever will mourn.
No comfort except knowing their names live in law.
Will always remember now and forever more.
COWLERSLEY resident and former Colne Valley High School pupil Daniel Wilford enlisted with the Yorkshire Regiment in August 2007 aged just 16.
But just a few weeks later Daniel decided army life was not for him and left the military, finding work in a local supermarket.
However he later had another change of heart and decided to resume his training with the Yorkshire Regiment.
Pte Wilford joined the 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (The Duke of Wellington’s) in April 2010.
He deployed to Canada as a Warrior Gunner in June 2011 before deploying to Afghanistan in the same role in February 2012.
His late father Malcolm died in December 2009, sadly before Daniel passed out at Catterick, but his family have said he would have been proud as they all were on that day.