THE CENTRE of a small town came to a standstill today for the funeral of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan with shops closing and hundreds of people lining the streets.
As the hearse carrying Fusilier Samuel Flint’s coffin approached St Chad’s Church in the centre of Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, many onlookers stepped forward to throw flowers on the roof and bonnet of the vehicle.
By the time the cortege stopped at the gates of the church it was covered with flowers.
Fusilier Flint’s coffin was carried into the service with full military honours followed by his family.
The hundreds who had gathered in the square outside the church stood in silence as the pallbearers made their way through the graveyard to the sound of a lone piper.
Fusilier Flint, 21, died when the Mastiff armoured vehicle he was travelling in hit an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in Helmand province on April 30.
He was killed along with Corporal William Savage, 30, both serving with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and Private Robert Hetherington, 25, who served with the 7th Battalion of the Regiment.
The Ministry of Defence said the men were part of a patrol travelling along Route 611 between Forward Operating Base Ouellette and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai in Nahr-e-Saraj when their vehicle was hit by the IED blast.
Avid Manchester City fan Fusilier Flint joined the Army in November 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in March.
The crowd broke into spontaneous applause when Fusilier Flint’s coffin was carried out of the church following the hour-long service.
Many of those packed outside were in tears as the congregation left to Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child.
Earlier, the crowds listened in silence to the service which included eulogies from Fusilier Flint’s friend Fusilier Jeffrey Batista and some of his six brothers and sisters.
In his eulogy, Fusilier Batista said he and Fusilier Flint were friends from the first time they met.
He said: “He came across as such a warm, caring person and, as time went on, he proved me right.
“Flint was the sort of person you could really rely on and trust. He would never let me down as a work colleague or as a friend, he would help anyone out no matter what situation they found themselves in.
“Flint would always put others before himself, demonstrating, for me, one of the most important values in the Army, which is selfless commitment.”
The solider said: “In my personal opinion people like Sam are so hard to come by these days.
“I can’t begin to imagine how proud Sam’s family and girlfriend are of him. But one thing I do know is how proud we are of him.”
Fusilier Batista finished his eulogy by saying: “I would like to take this opportunity as a friend and as a fellow soldier to thank him for giving up his today for my tomorrow.”