MOURNERS bade farewell to a Nelson hero described as ‘the epitome of a modern soldier and the definition of a true gentleman’.

Lance Corporal Michael Foley 25, died while guarding his comrades when a renegade Afghan soldier opened fire at the entrance to a British base in Helmand Province, last month.

Hundreds of mourners, including dozens of relatives and friends who had travelled from East Lancashire, gathered at the English Martyrs RC Church, in Didcot, Oxfordshire for his funeral.

He and his family had settled nearby while he served as a clerk in the Adjutant General's Corps.

Scores of people wishing to pay their respects lined nearby streets.

They paid silent tribute as his funeral cortege passed through the small town.

Two floral tributes adorned the sides of his casket.

They simply read 'Husband' and 'Daddy'.

His coffin, covered in a Union flag, was slow-marched into the church by eight of his closest comrades in arms.

A reading was given from the Book of Wisdom, the first line of which reads: 'A virtuous man who dies before his time will find rest'.

The song Dance With My Father Again was played, dedicated to his three young sons Calum, Warren and Jake.

His commanding officer Major BJ Cattermole paid tribute to a man 'snatched in his prime'.

He said: “He left an indelible mark on everyone he met, in all walks of life.

“He knew everyone in the unit, he was a 'go-to man' and would greet everyone with his infectious cheery, grin.

"Nothing was too much trouble for him, his smile and indefatigable sense of humour were enough to raise the spirits of everyone who came in touch with him.

“He was the epitome of a modern soldier, at ease with all ranks. When I asked what his aspirations were he simply wrote one sentence ‘To achieve the highest rank possible’ and there is no doubt he would have done that.

“He gave his life protecting those he loved.

“Axel was the best soldier of his Corps I have ever served with."

The former Barrowford County Primary School and Colne Primet High School pupil, who was known to friends and colleagues as 'Axel' leaves a wife Sophie and his three sons, parents Craig and Debbie, sister Lisa and brother Jordan.

LCpl Foley's sister Lisa, said the only word that would sum up her brother was 'perfect'.

"He always looked out for me and gave me strength. I will miss him every second of every day but his memory and spirit will live on in his three beautiful sons.”

LCpl Foley enlisted into the Army in 2003, joining the Royal Logistic Corps.

He became a Combat Human Resources Specialist and was posted to 9 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in his new role as a military administrator.

He was deployed to Afgha-nistan on Op HERRICK in September as a key member of the Task Force Helmand Headquarters Information Hub team.

LCpl Foley was buried at the nearby Kynaston Road Cemetery with full military honours.

A four gun salute rang out and The Last Post was played by a lone cornet in the moment after his casket was lowered to his final resting place.