MURWILLUMBAH fell silent at midday yesterday as thousands of people paid their final respects to fallen soldier Private Nathan Bewes.

Shops shut their doors and people stopped in the street as 6th Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment (6RAR), soldiers and Mount Saint Patrick College students formed an honour guard down Wharf Street.

When the service for Pte Bewes at Sacred Heart Catholic Church finished, Pte Bewes’ best mates carried his flag-draped casket to a waiting vehicle ready to take his body to a private burial service at Tweed Valley Lawn Cemetery.

The funeral was attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner, and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally.

More than 1000 mourners spilled out on to the street and a solemn silence enveloped the town as politicians and defence chiefs stood to attention, waiting for the funeral cortege to move past.

Pte Bewes was killed on July 9 in Afghanistan by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) while he was serving with the 1st Mentoring Task Force.

Sacred Heart parish priest Father David Gilbey led the service as the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett, Bishop of Lismore, watched on.

Fr Gilbey told the congregation Nathan Bewes was a man of peace.

“I see no contradiction in this description, even though Nathan’s chosen profession was that of arms and military service,” he said.

Through his natural talents and acquired skills, Fr Gilbey said Pte Bewes realised a lifelong passion and purposeful life of loyal and dedicated service.

“By his way of conducting himself, both privately, publicly and professionally, Nathan both honoured and served his family and friends with serenity and compassion,” he said.

“No stranger to this sanctuary, his understanding of Christian love, of loyalty and mateship, has brought about a flood of sincere and heartfelt sympathy, pride, support and love from all areas of his life.”

Members of Pte Bewes’ family, including father Gary, sister Stephanie, girlfriend Alice Walsh, and cousin Sam Preston told stories about their son, brother and friend.

Commander of the 7th Brigade, Brigadier Paul McLachlan, spoke of Nathan the soldier.

Murwillumbah RSL Sub-branch president Derek Sims also led an RSL service, where poppies were laid on Pte Bewes’ casket by ex-servicemen and two members of Murwillumbah’s 225 Army Cadet Unit. A lone bugler played The Last Post.

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