“GOODBYE our Northern lass.”
The words of a military commander as a family, the Army and a town united to say farewell to Afghanistan hero Lisa Head.
Capt Head, 29, died in hospital after being injured trying to defuse a deadly roadside bomb.
And the Almondbury woman’s enormous bravery was praised by colleagues and the public yesterday in a moving service at Huddersfield Parish Church.
More than 1,000 mourners packed into the church, into the streets and into St Peter’s Gardens for yesterday morning’s funeral.
Capt Head’s parents, John and Leila, and her sisters, Helen and Jayne, led the mourners.
But they were joined by hundreds who never knew or met Lisa but wanted to say their goodbyes.
There was spontaneous applause from the packed crowds as the cortege drew up outside the church and a bearer party of Lisa’s colleagues from the 11th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (OED) Regiment lined up to carry her into the church.
Ironically, her final journey was made only 50 yards from the Army recruiting office where she had first inquired about a military career.
The coffin was draped in the Union Jack and bore her cap, her belt and her ceremonial sword.
The hearse was lined with flowers – including an incongruous touch, with a flower tribute in the shape of Felix, the cartoon cat which is the symbol of the bomb disposal soldiers’ charity.
Standard bearers from many military and ex-servicemen’s organisations lined the steps of St Peter’s Church as did a guard of honour from the regiment.
Their medals glinted in the sun but many wore black armbands as a tribute.
Inside the packed church, Capt Head’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Adam McRae MBE, paid tribute.Related content
“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. Everyone spoke of Capt Head as “courageous, professional, approachable and friendly.”
Lt Col McRae continued: “These themes ring out through everything I have read. Lisa’s tragic death exemplifies this.”
The officer told mourners Capt Head had been knocked off her feet by one blast from a roadside bomb, but “dusted herself down” and carried on trying to nullify the threat.
“It was 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 service was led by the regimental chaplain the Rev Dr Paul Swinn, and the Rev Roger Nelson, of St Peter’s Church.
Dr Swinn said: “It is so good to see so many people here to support Lisa’s family and her colleagues in what must be their most terrible time.”
Friends and colleagues of the heroic soldier also paid their own tributes and there was laughter as they recalled Lisa’s love of partying both in the UK and abroad and her constant smile.
Outside, hundreds listened in silence as the hour-long service was relayed through loudspeakers into St Peter’s Gardens.
Many of them had been at schools such as Greenside Infants, Almondbury Junior School and Almondbury High School with Lisa.
Many more were student colleagues at Greenhead College and at the University of Huddersfield, where she gained a 2:1 degree in human biology before enrolling at Sandhurst.
She served in Northern Ireland and previously in Afghanistan before being deployed for her final tour of duty only in March, three weeks before her death.
The crowd joined in the applause after the service as Capt Head was borne away for a private family burial.