A lone piper played Amazing Grace as hundreds gathered at a village church to celebrate the life of an “exceptional” soldier who died in Afghanistan.
Captain James Townley, who grew up in Barton St David, near Glastonbury, was on his third tour of Afghanistan when he died, on September 21, the day before his 30th birthday. He had volunteered for all three tours.
He graduated from Oxford University with a first-class degree in engineering and computer technology and later left a promising career in accountancy to join the Army. After Sandhurst he joined the Corps of Royal Engineers. At the time of his death he was serving with 28 Engineer Regiment.
Captain Townley had rowed for University College while at Oxford and was an avid sportsman, enjoying skiing, mountain biking, kite surfing and sailing. Many friends from university, school days at Sexeys’ School, Bruton, and sports team-mates joined his family and Army colleagues at the little church of St Peter, West Lydford, yesterday.
Around 250 were present, so many that some were accommodated in the neighbouring village hall where the service was relayed by video link.
Captain Townley’s father, Peter, gave the eulogy, followed by tributes from schoolfriend James Read, university friend, Neil Slinger, Army colleague Captain Richard Pearce and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chas Story.
Lieutenant Colonel Story described Captain Townley as “an exceptional officer, a great character and unbelievably clever” and added: “The regiment is devastated that such a bright light has gone out.”
Captain Townley’s uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Bryant, Army Air Corps, gave the first reading, Footprints in the Sand. the second reading was given by his mother, Jacqui, and girlfriend, Helen Ladd The address was given by the Rev Trevor Cranshaw, with prayers led by Pastor Alwyn Barry and the Collect by Regimental Sergeant Major J Blaylock. The third reading, A Parable of Immortality was given by Captain Townley’s godfather, Simon Laurie.
Regimental Sergeant Major J Smith, of 28 Engineer Regiment, read the Act of Remembrance, and Last Post and Reveille sounded as Captain Townley was laid to rest beside the River Brue.
The Kohima Epitaph, which reads: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today” was read before the dismissal and blessing.
Captain Townley died of wounds at Camp Bastion, after being injured at a forward operating base in a remote part of Afghanistan.
His family, including brother, Nick, have described him as a: “wonderful, loving and caring son and brother. He was devoted to his girlfriend, Helen. He was our guardian angel and our hero. We were so proud of him. He touched every part of our lives and his loss has left a huge chasm that we can never fill.”