DRAPED in a Union flag and bearing a lilac cushion supporting 10 medals, Lance Sergeant John Hodgkin’s coffin entered St Chad’s Church, in Horninglow.
It was led by two Royal British Legion standards, one representing the Burton branch and another its women’s section, which then formed a guard of honour throughout the 30-minute ceremony.
Three dozen mourners, a third of them from the legion, sang Jerusalem before the Reverend George Crossley said prayers and delivered the eulogy.
He remembered Mr Hodgkin (pictured), a Second World War veteran who survived the D-Day landings, in the only way he could – as a ‘brave’ man.
After hearing a lesson from the Book of Revelations, the congregation sang The Day Thou Gavest before Mr Hodgkin’s coffin left the church, led again by the standards, to make the short journey to Stapenhill Cemetery.
Rev Crossley addressed mourners who then listened to a poem before a homage by Ken Compton, chairman of the legion’s Burton branch.
A bugler then played the Last Post and the standards bowed as a mark of respect as Mr Hodgkin’s coffin was lowered into his grave.
The congregation, now some 20-strong, heard final prayers before being invited to scatter rose petals into the old soldier’s final resting place.
Winter’s chill bit as they left, the thoughts of one of a dwindling band of great men uppermost in their minds.
“It was very fitting,” said Anne Compton, secretary of the legion’s Burton branch.
“It was a good tribute to him. It’s a pity more people were not there – but he was such an age.”
Mr Hodgkin survived at least two brushes with death during his service with the Irish Guards.
The first happened when an unexploded 800lb bomb detonated and covered him with mud.
The second came when he was targeted by German guns during an attack which left him seriously injured.
Although his memory was etched with the trials of war, Mr Hodgkin was not one to boast, wearing his heroism lightly.
Despite his courage, he had great sympathy for those involved in conflicts today.
“I think war is terrible,” he told the Mail, just 18 months before his death.