By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) — The British soldier slain in a gruesome cleaver attack in London was a well-liked infantryman and machine gunner who served in Afghanistan and Cyprus, and then became a military recruiter and ceremonial drummer outside the royal palaces, the military said Thursday.
Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was part of the Regimental Recruiting Team in London, and as a machine gunner, he was part of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
The Fusiliers, an infantry group, are known for the hackle, or feather plume, in their military headdress.
Rigby had a 2-year-old son, Jack, the UK Ministry of Defense said.
Fusiliers carry the coffin of soldier Lee Rigby out of the Bury parish church after his funeral – The Guardian U.K.
Drummer Lee Rigby
– eulogy in full
Lt Col Jim Taylor, commanding officer of Second Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, honours ‘fallen comrade’
theguardian.com, Friday 12 July 2013 08.26 EDT
Fusilier Lee James Rigby, or “Riggers” to his friends in the army, was an extremely popular soldier. A larger-than-life personality, he loved to perform and belonged in the Second Fusilier’s Corps of Drums. He was truly charismatic. To be with Lee was to be where it was most fun – the centre of the good times and much mischief. People quickly fell under his spell. Whether it was in work or off-duty, at a ceremonial engagement or on operations, Lee just knew how to lighten the mood. He could brighten a room within moments, and, by all accounts, clear a dance floor in seconds if a Whitney Houston track was playing! Lee had a natural swagger and the confidence of someone truly comfortable in their own skin. He was always happy. His smile was infectious, as was his enthusiasm for soldiering and his passion for life.
Lee joined the army in 2006 on his third attempt. It was his lifelong ambition to be a soldier. As a boy, this led him to join the local army cadets, which he loved. The entry tests to the regular army were therefore not going to defeat him from realising his aim. This was an early indication of how doggedly determined he was when he set his mind to something.
Following his basic infantry training in Catterick, Lee volunteered to be a member of the Corps of Drums of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. I think this surprised his fellow fusiliers and his family, as Lee had no musical background – a well-known passion for Westlife and other boybands, but no real musical skills. The drums training lasted six months, during which he drove everyone crazy with his incessant tapping of tables, steering wheels, in fact anything he could find to practise on while he mastered a new skill. The upshot was that Lee arrived in the Second Fusiliers in Cyprus in 2007 having earned the much-coveted title of Drummer. This was the start of Lee’s career as both a soldier and performer – both of which came naturally to him.
Soon after he arrived in Cyprus, Lee deployed to Jordan on exercise where he began to learn his operational trade as a machine gunner. As some of you will know, the terrain in Jordan is unforgiving, as is the heat, and I remember Lee being put through his paces with the Drums Platoon. Even though he was fresh-faced and had much to learn, he was still able to smile through the challenge and hardships. His wicked sense of humour and love of life were obvious to those with him. These qualities and his naturally flamboyant character quickly made him popular in Fire Support Company and across the whole battalion.
Having experienced all the military and social activities available to him in Cyprus, Lee moved to London with the Second Fusiliers to conduct ceremonial duties outside Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. As a drummer, the pace of life for Lee was relentless. Through it all, Lee wore his scarlet tunic with pride. He loved entertaining the crowds outside the royal palaces.
The highlight of his time in London was when the Second Fusilier’s Corps of Drums was invited to take part in the Household Division’s beating retreat. This is a real honour for a line infantry regiment like the fusiliers and no one was more pleased than Lee that it was bestowed on this platoon. He was widely regarded in the Drums Platoon as one of the best drummers in the battalion. He was also competitive and mischievous during the performances. He often tried to the make the drummers either side of him drop a stick during stick beat through his more skillful and incredibly energetic performance. Many of the drummers remember finishing events relieved that they still had both sticks in their hands, but with incredibly bruised fingers. Lee found this highly entertaining. Although he loved the musical role, Lee wasn’t so good at the spit and polish aspects of his trade. Indeed, having burned the stitching through six pairs of drill boots, his seventh pair was taken off him and returned for the parade square!
Lee had to put his drum down and pick up his machine gun in April 2009 when the Second Fusiliers deployed to Afghanistan. This was a gruelling tour for the battalion, with seven soldiers killed in six months. Lee played a full part in this as a machine gunner in the Fire Support Group based in Patrol Base, Woqab, in the town of Musa Qala. This was the most northerly combat outpost in Helmand province in 2009 and was under relentless pressure from the insurgents. Lee proved himself to be dedicated, professional and incredibly brave. He took part in numerous firefights with the enemy and regularly had to patrol across ground strewn with improvised explosive devices. His courage was tested every day; he was not found wanting.
On return to the UK he completed a second tour of public duties and then moved with the battalion to Celle in Germany. Here the battalion was held at high readiness for contingency operations anywhere around the world. It was less intensive than London for the Drums Platoon, so for Lee it was a time for family, with Jack as a newborn, barbecues and further opportunities to perfect the dance moves to Time of my Life from the film Dirty Dancing – apparently he was quite a good Patrick Swayze. Germany was also where Lee learned that he was allergic to the new camouflage cream, which caused no end of amusement in the Drums Platoon.
Lee’s final challenge in the army was with the recruiting group in London where he also assisted with duties at regimental headquarters in the Tower of London. The recruiting post was one that required just the characteristics that Lee possessed and had shown in spades in the short time he had served with the fusiliers. Namely, soldiering ability and charisma coupled with a cheeky outgoing personality that naturally endeared him to potential recruits. Based out of Woolwich, he helped to inspire many young people to join the armed forces. Tragically, it was while Lee was performing these duties that he was so cruelly taken from us.
We have a saying in our regiment that “once a fusilier, always a fusilier”. Today we, his regimental family, salute a fallen comrade. A talented soldier and musician. A larger-than-life character. A loyal friend and brother-in-arms. A gentle soul. Above all, a true fusilier – daring in all things. We all feel his loss keenly. We will remember him with pride always. Today, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his family and friends; we will continue to do so in the years to come.
So, thanks be to God for Lee Rigby – father, husband, son, brother, friend, fusilier.
We will remember him.
gby had a 2-year-old son, Jack, the UK Ministry of Defense said.