For­mer col­leagues erect grave me­mo­rial for young NI sol­dier killed 38 years ago in ac­ci­dent

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY DONNA DEENEY

A YOUNG Belfast sol­dier trag­i­cally killed in a crash in Eng­land has been re­mem­bered nearly 40 years af­ter his death.

Paul Best died in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent at Tid­worth bar­racks in Wilt­shire in Septem­ber 1980 — just two months be­fore his 19th birth­day.

His fam­ily laid him to rest fol­low­ing a civil ser­vice and with­out a mil­i­tary head­stone.

Years passed, the fam­ily scat­tered and the grave be­came over­grown.

But three years ago it was un­earthed by Peter Ir­win, who served in the Royal Ir­ish Rangers along­side Paul.

A so­cial me­dia search for oth­ers from the squad as well as Paul’s sur­viv­ing broth­ers and sis­ters led to a grave­stone be­ing spe­cially com­mis­sioned, and yesterday it was placed on Paul’s grave with his sis­ter June Maguire at­tend­ing.

One of the or­gan­is­ers, Jim Wright, who also served along­side Paul, said: “There was over 50 of us who joined up in 1977 in Bal­ly­mena and Paul was part of our platoon, so I knew him from his first day in the forces.

“Paul was more than an Army col­league, he was a good friend and it was a big shock when we heard he had been killed in an ac­ci­dent at Tid­worth.

“He was brought home for burial but given the times it was, with the Trou­bles, the fam­ily didn’t want any mil­i­tary trap­pings so Paul was given a civil­ian fu­neral and laid to rest in a fam­ily plot.”

Peter Ir­win, an­other for­mer col­league, dis­cov­ered the grave and put a post on Face­book.

Mr Wright added: “A few of us went up and had a look at the grave and de­cided that we wanted to do some­thing, so we went about try­ing to find Paul’s re­main­ing fam­ily.

“The head­stone that was on Paul’s grave, through the pas­sage of time, had fallen into dis­re­pair and there was noth­ing on it to say that Paul had been a sol­dier at any stage.

“We came up with the idea of hav­ing a new grave marker which would say that he had been a Lance Cor­po­ral in the Royal Ir­ish Rangers.

“We con­tacted Paul’s sis­ter, June, and she told us the fam­ily were happy for us to do that. Through Face­book one of our other col­leagues, Andy Shan­non, con­tacted us to say he makes head­stones, which was per­fect.

“Andy al­ready knew the Regi- mental Badge, of course, so once we told him what to write, he came up with the grave­stone.”

The group trav­elled yesterday,with­Paul’sfam­ily,to­laythe marker. Among the fam­ily mem­bers at­tend­ing was Paul’s sis­ter June Maguire, who trav­elled from her home in Lim­er­ick.

Sh­e­said­her­broth­er­wouldbe proud of his for­mer col­leagues for re­mem­ber­ing him in this way.

“There were 13 of us in our fam­ily and Paul was the third youngest,” June said.

“How­ever as the years have passed an­other six of us have passed away and the rest of us have scat­tered.

“Paul was a pas­sen­ger on a bike which crashed in an ac­ci­dent and he was killed, just two months away from his 19th birth­day.

“Paul was al­ways smil­ing and al­ways got on well with peo­ple, he was known as ‘Bestie’ to his friends.

“I am so pleased that his for­mer Army mates wanted to re­mem­ber him in such a lovely way and that I was able to travel up to the ceme­tery to see the grave­stone be­ing laid.

“I know Paul would be so very proud,” June added.

Jim Wright helped or­gan­ise a marker for the grave of his for­mer Army col­league and friend Paul Best. Right: Lance Cor­po­ral Best (left) and a col­league at Old Sarum Cas­tle in Sal­is­bury

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