HUNDREDS of people lined the streets to pay their last respects to an “inspirational” Army sergeant.
Scores of soldiers just back from Afghanistan were joined by crowds of mourners to bid a tearful final farewell to heroic father-of-two Sgt Gareth Thursby, whose parents live in Padiham.
Sgt Thurbsy (29) and Pte Thomas Wroe (18) were shot dead by a rogue Afghan policeman last month.
Major Malcolm Birkett explained that Sgt Thursby’s wife Louise wanted to leave the funeral in Skipton until his company had arrived back from its tour.
Maj. Birkett said: “Louise asked specifically if we could wait until Alma company returned from operations.
“And you can see they’re here en masse - 120 of them. They’ve literally come in from Afghanistan and are here today to pay their last respects and take Gareth on his final journey.”
Asked to describe Sgt Thursby, Maj Birkett said: “One word to sum him up - inspirational.
“A fantastic leader of men, a superb soldier. He had such an affiliation, a close bond with his men that actually he was called ‘dad’ throughout the tour.
“That’s what they thought of him.
“He is one-in-a-million, certainly a guy that will be remembered for everything right. He epitomises everything right in the Army.”
He is survived by his wife and two children, Joshua, 10, and Ruby, four.
His distraught mother and stepfather, Brian and Caroline Whitaker, of Victoria Road, Padiham, described their son as “one of the finest in the British Army” and said he would have done anything for anyone.
In a tribute read during the service, Mrs Thursby said: “Even on his R&R, he worried about his men out in Afghanistan.
“Even while trying to put his feet up he never switched off, wanting to make sure everyone was OK and doing their jobs properly.
“Apart from his family, his job and his lads meant everything to him.”
She added: “He’ll live on in his children who are so proud of their daddy and want to make him proud of them too.
“They look out for him at night, sat on his star, watching over us, still keeping us safe.”