A MUCH-loved army veteran was given a fitting funeral and send-off attended by those who cared deeply for him.

Michael Whelan sadly died on July 2 at the age of 68, having served his country abroad in vital peacekeeping operations.

The first tank regiment member, from Orford, was laid to rest at Fox Covert Cemetery following a funeral held at St Mary's Church in the town centre on Friday.

There was a strong military element to the send-off, given Michael’s service and the fact that he is part of a proud military family.

A bagpiper led the hears to Fox Covert Cemetery

A bagpiper led the hears to Fox Covert Cemetery

There was a bagpiper leading the hearse, veterans in attendance with standard bearers, and poppy wreath tributes.

Michael went to St Stephen’s and St Alban’s RC primary schools, before attending English Martyrs RC High School

A fun-filled childhood saw him somehow manage to climb onto the school roof, while another occasion saw him try to dig to Australia with his brother Jimmy in the garden.

It is no surprise that Michael entered the military, given his father James was part of the transport section of the Royal Air Force, and his mother Margaret worked as a nurse in the RAF.

Michael Whelan during his military days

Michael Whelan during his military days

Moreover, Jimmy was in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers branch of the Royal Army, with sisters Michelle working as a nurse in the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, Patsy serving in the Women’s Royal Air Force, and Margaret working as a musician.

Michael initially thought of becoming a priest in his youth, but he changed his mind and joined the army instead, working his way up the ranks.

He served in Northern Ireland on and off from the age of 18, while he also toured on United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Mediterranean region, particularly Cyprus and Turkey in the mid-1970s and in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Although Michael never had any children of his own, he was a loving uncle to his niece and three nephews.

People who loved Michael dearly attended the burial

People who loved Michael dearly attended the burial

His selflessness and caring traits were displayed when he bravely jumped into Sankey Canal to rescue a boy who had fallen in and could not swim, which made the Warrington Guardian.

He also showed a comedic side by taking a tank without permission with colleagues and driving it to a nearby village to go to the pub.

In tribute to her brother, Michelle said: “You are so dearly missed by all of us and everyone that knew you. We now find a hole in our hearts since you left us.

“Especially as a child, you kept our mum on her toes with your curious, mischievous and playful antics.

Fellow veterans gave Michael well-deserved salutes

Fellow veterans gave Michael well-deserved salutes

“You were a risk taker, daring, mischievous, a prank player and a comedian, but also loving and caring, a big lover of animals, and very devout.

“It was in the army that you became a ‘man’, experiencing and confronting traumatic and horrifying scenes, but also sharing fun and laughter with colleagues who served with you.

“Everyone loved you Michael, because you were you – caring, loving, laughing, helping others when you could and full of stories of your life.

“We will miss you, but you are and always will be in our hearts.”