A DEVOTED daddy, the perfect husband, brave, heroic – and “simply the best.”
That was the touching tribute from the heartbroken family of a hero soldier as hundreds turned out to say goodbye to the fallen serviceman.
Sgt Nigel Coupe’s funeral was held at St Annes Parish Church – seven weeks after he was killed alongside five of his comrades in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
And hundreds of St Annes residents lined the streets and headed to the service to say a final farewell to the 33-year-old, who was described as the “best husband and daddy” by his devastated wife, Natalie.
She entered the church clutching the hands of their two daughters – Ella, five, and two-year-old Jasmine – who the congregation heard were Sgt Coupe’s “princesses.”
Rev Philip Burrows led the tributes on behalf of Sgt Coupe’s family and said: “Nigel was the perfect husband. He was kind, caring and treated his wife Natalie like a princess.
“He was laid-back, fun and made everyone laugh.
“Nigel was a devoted daddy to his beautiful princesses (Ella and Jasmine) and he loved nothing more than spending quality time with his family.
“They looked up to their daddy and were very proud he was a soldier.”
And the Rev Burrows also read out a heartbreaking message from Sgt Coupe’s sister, Linda, who said: “I was alone before you were born then with you for 33 years, brother. I’m alone again but I hope we will meet again one day.”
Sgt Coupe’s parents, Alan and Elaine, said their son was “a star, our hero and forever in our hearts”.
The soldier’s coffin was carried into the church, draped in a Union flag, with his cap on top, by his comrades.
Lt Col Nick Wood, commanding officer of his regiment the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s, said Sgt Coupe had a left “a huge hole” in their lives.
He had been with the battalion for 16 years, but was deployed to Afghanistan on a secondment with the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment when the armoured Warrior vehicle he was travelling in – alongside Corporal Jack Hartley, 20, and Privates Anthony Frampton, 20, Christopher Kershaw, 19, Daniel Wade, 20, and Daniel Wilford, 21 – was blown up near the border between Helmand and Kandahar provinces on March 6.
Lt Col Wood told the congregation: “Everyone who knew him, talked with him, laughed with him, argued with him or just spent time with him ended up loving him.
“A professional, courageous and loyal soldier, a friend and family man – Nigel has left his mark.
“He died taking the fight to the enemy in one of those armoured vehicles he loved, doing what he loved.
“Nigel was simply the best.”
The Tina Turner song Simply The Best rang out as Sgt Coupe’s coffin was carried from the church, before those who had gathered outside broke into spontaneous applause as a mark of respect as the funeral procession pulled away from the church.
Earlier, dozens of people took a moment out of their day to line the streets as the funeral procession moved through the town.
The cortege paused for a few moments in front of the war memorial in Ashton Gardens before turning into the town centre where shoppers and local workers stood silently.
Helen Gallaway, duty manager at JR Taylor department store, said: “We sent as many staff out as we could as a mark of respect.
“Sgt Coupe’s death has affected a lot of people in St Annes. It’s a very emotional day.”
Pupils from Red Rose School, on Clifton Drive North, bowed their heads next to a standard bearer from the St Annes branch of the Royal British Legion as the funeral cortege stopped at the memorial.
Isabelle Van-Lint, 12, said: “It’s a sad day for the family. It’s such a shame. He served in the Army for us, trying to protect our country. It’s important for us to pay our respects to him.”
Spencer Leader, president of the St Annes branch of the Royal British Legion, added: “We are very sad.
“St Annes is one big family and it has affected a lot of people.
“He will always be in our thoughts.”