MORE than a thousand mourners paid tribute today to the bravery and sacrifice of the first British female bomb disposal expert to be killed in action.
Members of the public watched in respectful silence as the funeral of Captain Lisa Jade Head began in Huddersfield.
Capt Head, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps, had disabled one homemade bomb when another exploded in an alleyway in Nahr-e-Saraj, Helmand province, on April 18.
The 29-year-old, who had deployed to Afghanistan only on March 27, was flown home and treated in hospital in Birmingham but died from her injuries.
Comrades from her regiment formed a guard of honour on the steps of Huddersfield Parish Church of St Peter, as the funeral cortege arrived.
Veteran soldiers from the Royal British Legion stood proudly to attention, campaign medals on their chest, while lowering their standards, as others saluted.
Silence fell and the town came to a standstill before spontaneous applause rang out as the coffin, draped in the Union flag, topped with Capt Heads cap, belt and ceremonial sword, was borne into the church carried by six pall bearers - fellow soldiers, to the song Im Your Angel by Celine Dion and R Kelly.
Her parents, John and Leila and Capt Heads two younger sisters Helen and Jayne led close family into church, already packed with hundreds of service personnel, colleagues and friends of the fallen soldier.
As the coffin disappeared into the church a member of the crowd shouted Go on girl! and applause again rang out.
Capt Head is the second British woman soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. In June 2008 Sarah Bryant, 26, a member of the Intelligence Corps, died along with three SAS men in a roadside bomb attack in Lashkar Gah.
In a moving eulogy, her commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Adam McRae MBE paid tribute.
By looking around at the attendance today you can see very much how the MoD community and the wider army feel about Lisa, he said.
She was a talented professional and a highly respected officer, who had also served in Northern Ireland, and Lt Col McRae said tributes had come from across the world and from across the armed forces from people who had known her.
She was known for her effervescent character, her beaming smile and especially for sharing her ciggies, he said, and everyone spoke of Capt Head as courageous, professional, approachable and friendly.
Lt Col McRae continued: These themes ring out through everything I have read. Lisas tragic death exemplifies this.
The officer told mourners Capt Head had been knocked off her feet by one blast, but dusted herself down and carried on trying to nullify the threat.
It was, Lt Col McRae added, an act of breathless bravery, and sadly one that cost her her life.
The regiment, her colleagues and friends will miss her beaming smile, the dry lively wit, her love of red wine and chocolate.
Lisa will not be forgotten, her memory will live on in the deeds of EOD officers. Goodbye our northern lass. Rest in peace.
The Rev Roger Nelson, of St Peters, then read a short personal tribute from Capt Heads parents.
It said: Lisa baby theres not enough words to say how we feel.
We have three bright shining stars in our lives, now we have two but you will always be by our side.
You are so lovely, we miss you so much. It is like Dad said, you were as courageous as a lion but first and foremost you were our daughter. Love you.Related content
Personal tributes were also read out on behalf of Capt Head's two sisters, both in their 20s.
Helens read: My big sister Lisa was caring, considerate and courageous but never took any nonsense from anybody, I miss her so much and love her even more.
Jaynes tribute said: I adored her and always wanted to be just like her. Lisa was my hero.
Whenever I felt down she never failed to put a smile on my face. Im so proud of her.
Lisa is a huge inspiration not only to me but to everyone who knew her.
Earlier, mourners heard that Capt Head had studied human biology at Huddersfield University before attending the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, from 2004 to 2005.
She was commissioned into the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and initially trained as an Air Transport Liaison Officer, deploying to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007.
There were also personal tributes from three friends - one identified only as Natalie and the others given by Lianne and Nicky, who served with Capt Head in the Armed Forces.
All painted a portrait of a feisty young woman, famous for "drinking man and beast under the table", speaking of holidays together, having the "time of our lives".
Capt Head was a woman dedicated to her dangerous job but also fun-loving and full of character with "crazy hair and killer dance moves".
They also spoke of a "truly inspirational leader" who took such risks in her job that all were proud to know her and count her as a friend.
The hymns Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven and The Lord's My Shepherd were sung, along with Hero by Mariah Carey, before final prayers and the Commendation were said for Capt Head.
As the service ended, her coffin was carried from the church to the song I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston.
By now shop and office workers on their lunch breaks had further swelled the numbers listening to the service on loudspeakers outside.
After Capt Head's family emerged from the church, spontaneous applause rang out as the funeral cortege left for a private internment.
Reverend Dr Paul Swinn CF (CS), Chaplain to 11 EOD Regiment RLC, said: "It means a lot to us, as a military, to know how the wider community value what we do.
"I think it is wonderful to see. Lisa grew up here and spent her life here before she joined the Army.
"The community has taken her and her family to their hearts."