A TERRITORIAL Army soldier who was killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan was described as “the epitome of the modern volunteer soldier” at his funeral in Yorkshire today.
Mourners packed All Saints Church in Darton, near Barnsley, to pay their respects to Private Matthew Thornton, from 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, who died 48 hours before Remembrance Day.
Pte Thornton, who had re-enlisted in the TA to serve in Afghanistan, was killed in a bomb blast on November 9.
Hundreds of people ringed the churchyard today, standing in silence as the coffin was carried through a guard of honour.
Pte Thornton’s father and mother, Michael and Susan, comforted each other as they followed the coffin, which was draped with a Union Flag and had his Army cap and belt on top.
Dozens of family members followed the them into the small village church.
Inside, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Crowley, commanding officer, 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said: “For me he was the epitome of the modern volunteer soldier - professional, fit, enthusiastic and ready to party after working hard.”
A keen snowboarder, Pte Thornton joined the Territorial Army in 2004.
He left in 2007 but re-enlisted in 2009, volunteering his services for deployment to Afghanistan.
Away from the Amy, he worked for Yorkshire-based company Premdor, manufacturing door and window frames.
Pte Thornton was patrolling with a small group of soldiers when they were caught in an attack involving small arms fire and grenades. As Pte Thornton responded he was caught in a bomb blast and died.
Lt Col Crowley said he thought Pte Thornton was destined for promotion after the tour of Afghanistan.
The officer said: “He cared deeply for those around him and was always willing to offer support and help to those who needed it.”
He described him as a “true Yorkshire warrior”.
Pte Thornton’s friend Scott Menzies told the congregation: “Matt was a remarkable, loyal friend. He was incredibly kind and generous.
“Above all, Matt believed in fighting for his country and he always said that his family and friends meant the most to him.”
The Rev Andrew Martlew, officiating chaplain of 4 Yorks, compared the bonds within the Army with those found in the mining communities around the church which, he said, were sadly also used to dealing with fatalities.
Mr Martlew said: “The people who killed Matthew were intolerant, bigoted, fuelled by hatred.
“One way of honouring Matthew Thornton is the make sure our community never thinks like them.”
Outside the church, Lieutenant Alec Wood said: “He was a fantastic bloke. He really summed up the Territorial Army ethos. He was a fantastic volunteer soldier.”
The officer added: “He was very keen to live life to the full. He wanted to be part of the big picture and he wanted to make a positive contribution. He’s going to be sorely missed by everyone in the company and the battalion.
“It takes quite a bit of courage to volunteer to go out to Afghanistan. He just saw it as a chance to do his bit.”