THE brother of fallen Marine David O’Connor described him as a ‘true hero in every sense of the word’ at his funeral with full military honours yesterday.
Around 400 family members and friends poured into St Faith’s Church, on West Street, Havant, for the emotional service in honour of the 27-year-old.
Hundreds more lined West Street to pay their respects to the Marine as a procession passed carrying Corporal O’Connor into the church in a coffin draped in the Union flag.
Inside, Cpl O’Connor’s brother, Philip, read a family tribute to the packed church.
‘David made up his mind from a very young age that he wanted to join the Marines,’ he said.
‘For as long as I can remember that was all he wanted to do.
‘And he kept true to his word, signing up as soon as he could.
‘That meant our time with David was very limited, but every time he came back it was like he’d never been away.
‘He was always the life and soul of a party and he had this amazing ability to make people he’d just met feel like they’d been friends for years.
‘David was a credit to the corps and to all his friends and family.
‘To lose him at such a young age is heartbreaking.
‘He was a true hero in every sense of the word. He might be gone, but will never be forgotten.’
As reported, Cpl O’Connor, of West Street, Havant, was shot and killed in Helmand Province last month while overseeing training of local Afghan police.
He was on his third tour of Afghanistan with 40 Commando, having been deployed in September as a section commander in the acting rank of corporal.
Warrant Officer Regiment Sergeant Major Joe Gillespie, of 40 Commando, read a tribute on behalf of Cpl O’Connor’s fellow comrades at the service.
Many commented that Cpl O’Connor was ‘like an older brother’, and that he had ‘a brilliant sense of humour and mischievousness that made him loved by all’.
One marine said Cpl O’Connor was ‘a true spartan that will live forever as he takes his place in the spartan world’.
Warrant Officer Gillespie said: ‘Corporal O’Connor was an outstanding Royal Marines commando. He displayed true commando spirit in all that he did and was ferociously dedicated to his men, his Company and the Royal Marines.
‘He was an inspirational leader and an excellent soldier.
‘His loss will be felt not just at 40 Commando Royal Marines but throughout the Royal Marines Corps.’
The funeral service was led by the Reverend Canon Peter Jones, of St Faith’s Church, alongside Scott Shackleton, a chaplain for the forces.
Afterwards, Cpl O’Connor’s coffin was carried outside where it paused for a moment while three shots were fired in honour of the marine.
Members of the public, who had been listening to speakers outside the church, clapped as the coffin passed and many threw flowers and roses onto the hearse roof. The funeral party then went onto Chichester Crematorium under police escort where the family held a private service.
KILLED IN A FIREFIGHT
Marine David O’Connor was killed last month in Afghanistan while on duty.
He was in Helmand Province overseeing training of local Afghan police when he was shot dead in an attack.
His colleague medic Corporal Channing Day, from Northern Ireland, was also killed in the attack.
An initial review into the deaths has revealed the killings were not caused by friendly fire.
They came under fire near the village of Char Kutsa and were fatally injured during the firefight.
The Ministry of Defence said an Afghan man – believed to have been a member of the Afghan Uniformed Police but who was not wearing uniform at the time – also died during the incident.
This has led to speculation it was the latest in a series of green-on-blue attacks where Afghans turn on their allied partners.
The incident has sparked increasing concerns of insider attacks on coalition troops.
Cpl O’Connor, who joined the Royal Marines in 2002, was deployed to Afghanistan in September as a section commander in the acting rank of corporal.
Tributes flood in from Cpl O’Connor’s comrades
WARRANT Officer Mark Burton, Company Sergeant Major, of 40 Commando, said: ‘He was greatly respected by all and as a veteran of previous tours he really was one of the main men in the Company. Dave, you will be sorely missed bud, see you at the great bar in the sky mate.’
Captain Steve Taylor, Officer Commanding, of 40 Commando, said: ‘His ability to both inspire and reduce you to tears of laughter within the same conversation was irreplaceable and as we press on we will forever miss that unmistakable smile.’
Sergeant Richie Bateman, Troop Sergeant, of 40 Commando, said: ‘Dave was genuinely one of life’s characters. His easy going nature made it very easy for people to get on with him and he was always at the heart of any fun and humour that was happening.’
Corporal Chris Harper, of 40 Commando, said: ‘What can I say about Dave other than he was one of the best blokes I worked with and one of my best mates.’