THE town of Chorley paid its final respects to a fallen hero today as a soldier killed in Afghanistan was laid to rest.

Warrant Officer Dave Markland, 36, from Euxton, was serving with the Engineer Regiment as a bomb disposal expert when he was killed in an explosion in the south of the country last month.

Hundreds lined the streets and there was spontaneous applause as his cortege made its way along Market Street and St George’s Street to a church service at St George’s with full military honours.

Leading the mourners were his wife, Corallee, and their two sons Keelen, 10, and Logan, seven.

Members of his regiment carried the coffin into the church to the strains of Amazing Grace.

The service heard WO Markland describes as a man ‘who cared about his comrades. He cared about his family. He simply cared. He was a talismanic figure whose personality inspired confidence and self belief in all those around him.’ After the service, a three-volley gun salute rang out in tribute before the cortege went on to Chorley crem-atorium for a private family service.

The service was relayed via audio to the hundreds waiting outside the packed church.

A former Parklands High School student, had a distinguished 20-year career in the Army, enlisting in June 1989 as a plant operator mechanic.

He had been leading a team clearing improvised explosive devices from routes.

It was WO Markland’s second tour of Afghanistan and his eighth operational tour of duty, having completed five tours in Bosnia between 1995 and 1998, one in Iraq in 2003. He was recently selected for a field squadron sergeant major’s post; a rare occurrence in the plant specialist trade.

At the time of his death, WO Markland’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Bex, of the Counter IED Task Force said: “He was adored by his team; they would have followed him to the ends of the earth, such was the respect and trust he inspired.”

Major Tim Gould, officer commanding the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, said: “He was a veritable guiding light to all that he served with.

“A man of excellence and of exacting standards; second best just wouldn’t do.

“He was new to the ‘bomb hunting’ discipline, a small and tight knit fraternity; he thrived operating on the front line.”