Tears and tributes for soldier John

John Buck's funeral at St Hilda's Church, Whitby
John Buck's funeral at St Hilda's Church, Whitby

WHITBY fell silent again this week as it hosted its second military funeral in just six months.

Artificer Sergeant Major John Buck was laid to rest in his home town after a long and distinguished army career where he achieved all he had set out to do.

On his final journey his coffin arrived at St Hilda’s Church on the West Cliff in a black hearse flanked by a procession of police motorcyclists and to the poignant tones of a lone bagpiper.

Waiting for him was a firing party and a bearing party made up of colleagues from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (RSDG), to whom he was attached.

His wife Rachel, surrounded by sons Jordan, Kiefer and daughter Erin, clasped the hand of John’s sobbing mum Dawn as his coffin was lifted from the hearse draped in the Union flag and bearing his cap, belt and array of medals.

Looking on were John’s heartbroken dad Ted, whom John followed into the army when he joined REME and his brother James, who spent five years in the forces with the Royal Artillery.

The church was filled with over 400 mourners made up of army colleagues past and present, pals from Germany where John was posted and old mates from Whitby.

They included Alan and Jennifer Found who sat in the same church just six months ago for the funeral of their craftsman son Andrew who was killed in Afghanistan.

John had been among the mourners that day.

Opening prayers were said by Rt Rev Martin Warner, the Bishop of Whitby before Commanding Officer Lt Colonel Jonathan Bartholomew led the tributes.

He said: “John Buck was a consummate professional and a true soldier. I was personally proud to have him as Artificer Sergeant Major of my regiment.”

Lt Col Bartholomew told how after joining up in August 1987 John was despatched to Iraq in 1991 for the first Gulf War, a number of tours in Germany and Bosnia in 1999.

He became a staff sergeant in 2002 and was presented with a long service and good conduct medal while a tour of Canada came in 2010 and another posting to Afghanistan.

Captain Andy Mackay from RSDG said John was the only member of the regiment, made up primarily of Scotsmen, with a George’s Cross and also managed to con him into buying expensive champagne at a balaclava dinner - a 150 year-old Army tradition.

He said: “He was the ASM of the RSDG, he was sat opposite the commanding officer, he was listening to the pipes, he was in his element.

“I genuinely will always treasure that final drink I had with him. He was the most professional soldier I have ever had the privilege to work with.”

WO1 ASM Craig Lochrie’s voice was breaking as he neared the end of his speech in which he said: “He got the best out of his soldiers. They respected him because he led from the front. He never asked them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself or hadn’t done in the past.

“He treated his soldiers right and his soldiers will treat their soldiers right because of what he passed on to them.”

After the tributes, chaplain to the RSDG Rev Tony Dalton CF addressed the church saying: “Stuff happens, things go wrong and we know that when the tanks roll out of the gates chances are something will happen.

“When this happens we try and move on and that means determination and we don’t have to look far for an example of that to follow.”

The traditional service, which featured the hymn “Jerusalem”, the Lord’s Prayer, the Last Post and the National Anthem, also included a haunting version of “Silent Night” by Sinead O’Connor.

The service was ended to the tune of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” while the funeral party proceeded to Whitby Cemetery for burial and a reception afterwards at the Met Hotel.