FROM the heat and dust of Afghanistan to the winter chill of a Scots kirk, friends, family and comrades of Captain Walter Barrie gathered yesterday to pay tribute to a “loving husband, amazing father and great soldier”.
Although separated by thousands of miles, mourners were united in their admiration for the 41-year-old killed on Remembrance Sunday by an Afghan soldier he was sent to mentor.
In a moving tribute, the funeral service at Glencorse Kirk, in Penicuik, was mirrored by a service at 1 Scots central base, Camp Tombstone, and each of the 13 patrol bases dotted across central Helmand, where soldiers shared the same hymns and readings as they mourned their fallen comrade.
The coffin – bearing a Union flag, Capt Barrie’s officer’s sword, medals, Sam Browne belt and a poppy wreath – was carried into the service to the sound of a lone piper. A large photograph of the uniformed soldier stood at the front of the church, as did two floral wreaths, one white and one red. A poignant floral tribute spelled out the word “Dad” and during the service the congregation heard a moving tribute from the officer’s son, Callum.
He said: “If I was to describe my dad in three words, I would say he was caring, funny and kind. One thing I will always remember is that he’d give anything a try and would always do it with a smile on his face. He always treated everyone he met with respect and usually managed to have a laugh and joke with them, too. I was very close to my dad and have lots of good memories, the best of which included football. Whether we were playing in the garden or driving to Glasgow to see Rangers, we always had a good time.”
Through tears, he went on: “Today, I come to say goodbye to an amazing father, but also my best friend. Thank you, Dad, for all the memories.”
Capt Barrie was playing in a football match between British soldiers and members of the Afghan National Army when he was shot at close range. Capt Barrie, of The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots), had served for 25 years, including tours of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan in 2008. The latest tour of duty saw him deployed to Afghanistan on 31 August.
News of the soldier’s death came after the Queen led the nation in honouring the fallen
The killing took the total number of UK service members to have lost their lives since operations began in Afghanistan in October 2001 to 438.
At least 54 international troops have died as a result of such “green on blue” attacks, where Afghans turn their weapons on their coalition colleagues.
Reverend Benjamin Abeledo, who led the service, spoke of Capt Barrie’s accomplishments during his life.
“We give thanks for those things he did to make our world a better place,” he said. “Through his service, may our dedication to serving others be deepened.”
He told the gathering: “There is no doubt that with the death of Walter, a great man has fallen. Scotland has lost a great son. The regiment has lost a great soldier. Those of us who knew him have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother and personal friend.”
Rev Abeledo said of the soldier: “He had a great deal of respect for the profession of soldiering. He was a traditional man with traditional ways of doing things. He was loyal, committed, enthusiastic, with a huge, infectious personality.
“Walter was not big-headed or arrogant. On the contrary, he was a humble man who cared deeply for the wellbeing of those around him.”
The minister described the officer as a Glaswegian with a wonderful sense of humour which endeared him to those around him, and said he was a private man.
He spoke of the officer’s quiet religious faith, his peace in his own company and his love for those close to him.
Describing the officer as a “good and great man”, the minister said: “He is a man whose influence and work will continue to live in our lives and in our memories. This world will be more empty and lonely without him. We do miss him, we will miss him.”
A statement on behalf of Capt Barrie’s wife Sonia was read out, before the coffin was carried out of the service to the sound of the Tina Turner song Simply The Best. Explaining the song, Matthew Smith, who read Mrs Barrie’s words, said: “Walter was a very traditional man and therefore a traditional send-off was what he would have wanted. However, in a break from tradition, we hoped this would make Walter smile.”
The statement went on: “Every time Sonia went to C Company functions with Walter, this song was always played at the end.
“Every time she was forced to go to a Rangers game with Walter and Callum, this song was always played.
“Walter Reid Barrie was simply the best. Love and miss you forever, babes. Sonia.”
An Army spokeswoman said an estimated 900 to 1,000 people attended the funeral, among them Rangers manager Ally McCoist. About 450 were inside the church while the same number again filled an overspill area outside. The service was followed by a private burial at Glencorse Cemetery.