23 May 2013, 19:58
The British soldier, from Manchester, brutally killed by two suspected terrorists in Woolwich was a ''true warrior'' who had served with distinction in Afghanistan, colleagues said.
Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, from Middleton, who served with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was hacked to death in a knife attack on Wednesday, just yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, commanding officer of the Second Fusiliers, led tributes to the father-of-one, whom he described as a ''dedicated and professional soldier''.
``He was a real character within the Second Fusiliers,'' Lt Col Taylor said.
``Larger than life, he was at the heart of our Corps of Drums. An experienced and talented side drummer and machine gunner, he was a true warrior and served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany and Cyprus.
``His ability, talent and personality made him a natural choice to work in the recruiting group. He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Second Fusiliers.
``Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this incredibly difficult time. Once a Fusilier, Always a Fusilier.''
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the entire defence community was ``shocked and saddened'' by the killing of Drummer Rigby.
``This was a senseless murder of a soldier who has served the Army faithfully in a variety of roles, including operational tours in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,'' he said.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said the killing had only reinforced the determination within the armed forces.
``We are absolutely determined not to be intimidated into not doing the right thing, whether it is here in this country or in Afghanistan or wherever we seek to serve the nation,'' he said.
He said that he and the Prime Minister had agreed that personnel should resume wearing their military uniforms when they are off base.
``I think this is a completely isolated incident - we wait to hear more but that is our view,'' he said.
``There is no reason at all why we should not wear our uniforms with pride, but on a common sense basis.''
Sergeant Barry Ward said Drummer Rigby, known as ``Riggers'' within his platoon, was ``a very bubbly character'' and ``a loving father'' to his two-year-old son Jack.
``He was an excellent Drummer, loved his job and was a highly popular member of the Platoon,'' Sgt Ward said.
``He was always around when needed and will be sorely missed by all members of the Second Fusiliers Corps of Drums. Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.''
Drummer Rigby, who joined the Army in 2006, had served in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he was a member of the Fire Support Group in Patrol Base Woqab.
A life-long Manchester United fan, he had also stood outside the Royal Palaces as part of his battalion's public duties commitment.
A shocked and tearful neighbour outside the family home, a council house on the Langley estate in Middleton, Greater Manchester, said: ``He had always wanted to be in the army since he was knee high.''
The woman, who did not want to be named, added: ``He was a lovely lad, he lived around here for years and went to Middleton Tech.''
A steady stream of relatives and friends visited the house throughout the day to support the family.
Captain Alan Williamson, who was Drummer Rigby's Platoon Commander from 2010 to 2011, described the soldier as a ``cheeky and humorous man'' who was ``always there with a joke to brighten the mood''.
``He was an extremely popular member of the Fire Support Group,'' Cpt Williamson said.
``An excellent side drummer and highly competent machine gunner, he was always there to help out the younger members of the FSG whenever possible.
``His loss will be felt across the Battalion but this is nothing compared to how his family must be feeling at this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with them.''
Warrant Officer Class 1 Ned Miller, regimental sergeant major with the Second Fusiliers, said: ``Riggers is what every battalion needs. He was one of the Battalion's great characters always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers.
``He was an excellent drummer and well respected within the Drums platoon.
``He was easily identified whilst on parade by the huge smile on his face and how proud he was to be a member of the Drums.
``He would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again. My thoughts are with his family and they will always be part of the Fusilier family. Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.''