, Story by Daily Mail RADCLIFFE, UK, Dec 21- A newlywed British soldier who was accidentally shot dead during training in Kenya last month has been laid to rest after a funeral at the church where he was married just five months ago.
21 year old Fusilier James Wilkinson left behind his bride Sarah, also 21, and who is pregnant with their daughter Annabel.
He was laid to rest on Tuesday with a message from the unborn child which said: ‘you are and always will be so very special to me.’ She is due to be born in February.
The soldier, who served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was accidentally shot in the neck during training on November 26.
A stray bullet hit him in the next on a firing range during the last day of a three-week exercise.
Fusilier Wilkinson, from Whitefield, Greater Manchester, was treated at the scene by a doctor and airlifted to hospital but was pronounced dead an hour later. The training accident is currently under investigation
He was due to return to his army base in Germany before being reunited with his wife on December 17. As he was laid to rest, a message from his unborn daughter was written on a card addressed to the father she never met.
It read: ‘You are and always will be so very special to me. I know you will always be holding my hand. I can’t wait to get to know all about you. All my love cuddles and kisses. Princess.’
British soldiers usually conduct training sessions around Archer’s post in Kenya.
Colleagues from the regiment carried his coffin into St Thomas and St John Church for the 90 minute service where floral wreaths read ‘husband’ and ‘daddy’.
His wife Sarah, who dressed all in black, wrote a message saying: ‘My darling husband. You have given me so much in such a short space of time.
‘In return you will always have my heart. We will continue this journey of life together. I love you with everything I have and will until the end of time. Stay close to me my love, You are my better half best friend, wife.’
A message from Sarah’s son Connor who was brought up by James ‘as his own’ read: ‘I am the luckiest little boy in the world to be able to call you my Daddy.
‘I am and always will be so very proud of you. I know mummy will always help me remember. All my love and kisses. You little Connor bobs.’
James Wilkinson was born into a serving Army family in Germany and had lived in various locations around the globe. His father, Rob served in the forces as an Army medic.
Three years ago, he settled in Whitefield where James’ parents now live. He joined the Army a year ago before undergoing his basic training in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
In the weeks before his death Sarah travelled to Celle, Germany, where he was stationed after the pair were given confirmation of their married quarters.
He then went to Kenya with the regiment to prepare for a tour of duty in Afghanistan next year and was on the last day of training when he was killed.
In a statement released at the time of his death Sarah said: ‘It’s like my world has stopped turning. I can’t understand how this could have happened.
‘You never expect this – it was a training exercise, he wasn’t in Afghanistan or anything like that. He was my world.
‘He was just amazing with Connor. We were expecting a little girl and he was over the moon. I’m just heartbroken.’
A family statement read: ‘Being in the Army was in James’ blood. It was what he always wanted to do – to serve his country just as his father had before him.
‘Anybody who knew James had the utmost respect for him. He was simply treasured by all who knew and loved him.
‘His wife Sarah is taking hope from the part of James which will live on in their baby girl, who is due in February.
‘Above that James’ family and friends will always have of him never-ending and precious memories that will never be forgotten.’ Commanding officer, Lt Col Mike Butterwick, said: ‘Fusilier James Wilkinson was the epitome of a Fusilier. He was robust, fit and was dedicated to his profession.
‘Even though he had only been with us for a relatively short time he had already made his mark on the battalion.
‘His personality was infectious and his professionalism was absolute. Determined, keen and always ready to take the initiative, his performance on the exercise was simply outstanding.
‘He was immensely popular and everyone who knew him knew how much he loved his young wife, Sarah, and her son, Connor. He was a wonderful role model for Connor.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Sarah and his parents, Rob and Jan, at this tragic time.’