Military send-off in Leeds for Second World War veteran Harry Thrush UPDATED

He was a proud old soldier who spent the last years of his life honouring men and women who fell in Afghanistan by attending their funerals.

Wednesday, 13th January 2016, 2:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th January 2016, 2:29 pm
PIC: Simon Hulme

And today the favour was repaid to Harry Thrush at his own funeral, as dozens of members of the Armed Forces past and present turned up to pay their respects to a Beeston hero.

Mr Thrush died on Christmas Eve aged 92, and his family appealed last week for any servicemen and women to attend his funeral at St Mary’s Church in Beeston.

The appeal, first launched in the YEP, was featured in national newspapers and on television.

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PIC: Simon Hulme

Mr Thrush was extremely proud of his service in Italy in World War Two, and was a keen attender of remembrance parades, as well as attending the funerals of fallen members of the Armed Forces to comfort their families.

And outside the church yesterday, it was clear that many of the servicemen and women who came to the funeral felt honoured to pay their respects.

Barry Fretwell, president of the Mirfield Royal British Legion, said: “The majority of people here never met Harry but because of his service they wanted to attend. It’s a lovely mark of respect.”

And Paul Furby, who travelled from Warrington for the service, said: “I wanted to come show my respects from one ex-gunner to another.”

PIC: Simon Hulme

Mr Thrush’s coffin, draped in the Union flag, was carried into church solemnly by six members of the 269 Battery Royal Artillery.

Members of the forces saluted the coffin as it went past, before taking their seats inside. Once inside the church, Mr Thrush’s service hat and his medals were placed on the coffin.

The service, led by Reverend Lindsay Pearson, was an emotional tribute to a “loving dad and proud serviceman”.

Territorial Army Major Robert Friel read Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ to the congregation.

PIC: Simon Hulme

And in her tribute, Mr Thrush’s daughter Janet Smith thanked all the servicemen and women who attended the service.

She said: “This would have meant the world to him. We sincerely thank you. He was an unsung hero for most of his life - although he was always our hero - and today you have given him the send off he wanted.”

At the end of the service, the Last Post was played, and the famous poem ‘We Will Remember Them’ was read.

The congregation left the church to a recording of Mr Thrush singing one of his favourite songs - ‘D-Day Dodgers.’

PIC: Simon Hulme

As his order of service said: “Once a gunner, always a gunner.”