Light Dragoons welcome home parade: Remembering Sgt Lee Davidson
While the welcome home parade will be a celebration of the safe return of the Light Dragoons from Afghanistan it will also be tinged with sadness at the loss of one of their regiment, Sgt Lee Davidson.
Sgt Davidson, 32, from Thorne, near Doncaster, died on September 9 after his Ridgeback vehicle was hit while patrolling with the Afghan Uniformed Police in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province.
The soldier was deployed as the troop sergeant of support troop with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force and in June his troop was formed into a Police Advisory Team as part of the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group. He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and was the 427th member of UK forces to have died since operations began in October 2001.
The funeral for the father-of-two took place on Monday, October 1 at St Nicholas Church, Thorne, where he married his wife Samantha just a year earlier.
Mrs Davidson, who was then seven months pregnant with the couple's first daughter, followed her husband's flag-draped coffin while hundreds of people lined the streets of the town to pay their respects.
As the funeral cortege approached, Royal British Legion standard-bearers raised and then lowered their flags.
A blue and white floral tribute in the hearse spelled out the word 'Daddy'.
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Pallbearers carried the coffin, draped in a Union flag and with Sgt Davidson's hat and belt placed on top, into the church, followed by his family.
Mourners carried a single red rose and crowded into the churchyard for the funeral.
A recorded tribute read by the tearful widow was played at the crowded church.
She said: 'I met the man of my dreams and knew I would marry this man. I promise to keep your memory alive. I love you, Lee. We all love you.
'We had five-and-a-half years of great fun, love and memories and I will tell our children all of them.
'One day we will meet again. Until we do, I'm never letting you go. Love you always and forever.'
The service was led by Rev David Green who married the couple.
At the funeral James Walker, a close friend of Sgt Davidson, read out a letter to loved-ones the soldier had written before setting off for the frontline – to be read out at his service just in case he died.
In it he said: 'If a vicar or one of my friends is reading this, all I can say is, 'Whoops, that wasn't supposed to happen'.'
It finished with: 'Never forget me and, from time to time, have a pint for me.'
Born on May 13, 1980, Sgt Davidson lived in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and started his working life as a pavement resurfacer. He joined the army in August 1998 and arrived at the Light Dragoons in January 1999. He deployed on operational tours to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with C Squadron, known as 'The Legion'.
He was subsequently posted to the Army Foundation College in Harrogate where he flourished as an instructor to junior soldiers.
Tributes poured in following his death from senior officers to colleagues on the ground.
Maj John Godfrey, of the Light Dragoons, said: 'He truly was one of the highest regarded soldiers in the regiment. He was an optimist, he always gave his best and was an inspiration to so many.'
Lt Col Sam Plant MBE, Commanding Officer, The Light Dragoons, said: 'Sgt Davidson will be remembered as a simply superb soldier and a wonderful man. From the outset of training for this, his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, he demonstrated the sort of professionalism and determination that had long been his trademark
'He was the most natural leader of men and soldiers flourished under his command - he set the perfect tone and example and cared deeply for his soldiers' welfare. Rarely to be seen without a broad smile on his face, his enormous popularity was borne out of deep respect and his unbreakable sense of fun.
'Utterly loyal and ferociously hard-working, he was, and always will be, an inspiration to so many.
'He deployed on Operation HERRICK 16 as a member of A Squadron, The Light Dragoons as a troop sergeant and a vehicle commander. In this, his core role, he thrived from the outset but, in June, he and his men were selected and trained to become Afghan Police Mentors.
'Typically, Sergeant Davidson attacked this new challenge with gusto, quickly proving to be an outstanding mentor. The requirement to build rapport with his Afghan partners came completely naturally to him and he died doing a job in which he was succeeding and loving.
'His future in The Light Dragoons was full of promise and continued promotion up the ranks was a given.
'He spoke often of the family that he adored; he was so proud of his wife, Sam, and their two boys, Jayden and Jamie. He was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming a father for a third time soon after the completion of the tour; his optimism for the future was infectious.
'He leaves a gap in the ranks of The Light Dragoons which will never be filled. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam, Jayden and Jamie at this most difficult time. Viret in Aeternum. Merebimur.'
Lieutenant Ed Whitten, troop leader, Police Advisory Team, Police Mentoring and Advisory Group, The Light Dragoons, said: 'Sergeant Davidson was a great bloke, a great leader and great soldier. He was professional in all that he did and he loved his job. He achieved success in his career with relative ease and it was an honour and a privilege to have worked so closely with him. My greatest testament to him was that he always put the boys first.
'Our thoughts are with his family whom he talked about endlessly, particularly his wife Samantha and two young boys. We will miss him greatly and his example and enthusiasm will be remembered by all and will keep our troop going until we all go home. Davo, we are truly grateful.'
Warrant Officer Class 1 David Rae, Regimental Sergeant Major, said: 'As with the loss of any Light Dragoon, the news is extremely difficult to take. We are a small regiment and the loss of one of our own is felt right through the regimental family.
'For me personally, the loss of Sergeant Davidson feels somewhat more difficult than those who have passed before him as I have had the pleasure of soldiering with him in C Squadron so many times in the past.
'Davo was a man who possessed great personal qualities which endeared you to him, as well as his abilities as a senior non-commissioned officer within the Light Dragoons.
'As a man, Davo was liked by everyone, peers, superiors and subordinates; he was easy to be around; you enjoyed spending time with him. There was no agenda, only a down to earth, level headed, happy, fun, chatty, articulate and intelligent Yorkshireman; and he cared about all the right things.
'His family were generally in the conversation and he doted on his wife and children. He looked upon his troop in almost equal measure and his troop knew it too.
'As a soldier, he made his mark in a very unassuming manner; this was very typical of Davo. He didn't follow anyone else's particular approach to his trade as a recce soldier; he just did it as a professional and without feeling the need to highlight his achievements.
'Davo didn't do 'flash' but you knew that regardless of his 'under the radar approach' he always produced, and he produced without guidance or prompt. He was utterly reliable in all he did; the perfect senior non-commissioned officer you could say. He has been like this since he was a young trooper.
'I know his soldiers are feeling this, I have witnessed it. I know they trusted him implicitly, I have witnessed this also. I know they respected him and looked up to him as the best troop sergeant in the Light Dragoons: it's hard to argue against this.
'He was indeed destined to fulfil a very successful career. His boys also understood what his family meant to him; everything. He was utterly devoted to Sam and the boys.
'Although we feel it deeply as a regimental family, our loss, although so difficult to comprehend, doesn't compare to the feelings his family will now be experiencing. Our thoughts, prayers and sincere condolences are with them all at this most difficult of times. We will be there for them as Davo was for us, always.
'Lost but never forgotten, we will remember him. God bless.'
Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said: 'I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sergeant Lee Davidson and my thoughts are with his family at this very sad time. Sergeant Davidson was a respected and skilled serviceman and his loss is a great tragedy.
'Sergeant Davidson gave his life protecting Britain's national security; his efforts will not be in vain, and he will not be forgotten.'