Hundreds mourn Birmingham's teenage soldier Joe Murphy
As the last living link of Britain’s involvement in the First World War was mourned across the nation, the family and friends of an 18-year-old Birmingham soldier put their lives on hold to mark the death of their own hero.
The bell tolled 111 times for centurion Harry Patch at Wells Cathedral as 1,000 people applied for tickets to his funeral.
A few hundred miles away in Birmingham, a busy corner of the city came to a standstill during a funeral for Rifleman Joe Murphy, who was killed fighting in Aghanistan.
Unlike Patch, Rfn Murphy will never see the fruits of his toils. And he will never have to come to terms with the deaths of so many comrades that kept Patch mute on the subject of war until he was 100 years old.
As hundreds of mourners filled St Wilfred’s Church, in Castle Bromwich, the Parish Priest said there was still the same strong feeling of gratitude to the nation’s soldiers as there was in 1918.
Father George Bennett said: “When we have the death of the very oldest soldier on the day we celebrate the life of a very young soldier we see that some things do not change.
“The values that both have fought for are extremely important to all of our community and to our country as well.”
Rfn Murphy, from Castle Bromwich, who was a passionate Aston Villa fan, died in a bomb blast in Afghanistan last month.
He was carrying an injured comrade to safety when a second improvised explosive device exploded, killing them both instantly.
His selfless act would not have been out of place on the battlefields of the First World War.
As weapons have advanced and warfare tactics have modernised, the brotherly solidarity of the military remains unchanged.
In a statement read out in church by Father Bennett, Rfn Murphy’s mother and father, Jill and Bill, and older brother Ben, paid tribute to troops injured and killed in Afghanistan.
The statement said: “We would like to honour Joe’s comrades who died with him on July 10.
“What brave young men. Everyone of them is a hero.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the injured soldiers recovering in Selly Oak Hospital and Afghanistan as well as those still serving.
“We would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and support.
“Joe meant so much to us and it brings us great comfort to know that he meant so much to so many other people as well.”
Capt John Mabb, officer commanding the rear party of the battalion, added: “Joe had made a real impact during his time in the Army.
“He was a real prospect for the future which we have now so tragically lost.
“He was a real character, a fun loving and humorous guy.”
As six soldiers from Rfn Murphy’s regiment, the 2 Rifles, carried his coffin into the church, his father broke down in tears.
Friends and family followed the casket in to the chapel through a military guard of honour.
Many of them were wearing claret and blue scarves in honour of his allegiance to his beloved football team.
Outside, hundreds of mourners bowed their heads as the sermon was broadcast through loudspeakers to those who could not fit in the church.
Cars stopped in the street as drivers took the time to pay their respects to another fallen hero.