By Eddie Bisknell, Jamie Wiseman and Tamash Lal
“JACK will be remembered for how his love shone out to all. He will be missed by all who knew him,” those were the words of the Reverend Carl Stokes, chaplain to the forces at Larkhill in Salisbury.
More than 300 people gathered at Painswick Rugby Club today to celebrate and commemorate the life of 24-year-old Jack Mitchell, a son, brother, grandson, humanitarian and 32 Regiment Royal Artillery gunner.
Jack was given full military honours and more than 70 members of the armed forces attended to pay their respects at his funeral, silently lining the road with heads bowed as the hearse pulled into the club.
Six of Jack’s fellow soldiers carried his Union Flag-clad coffin into the club while Swing Low Sweet Chariot was played – a fitting pairing with Jack’s love of rugby.
After an introduction and a prayer from the Reverend Carl Stokes, well-wishers were invited to sing Jerusalem – another song typically sung at rugby occasions.
Jack’s great uncle and retired Lieutenant Colonel C J Finch, PARA, led the eulogies, he said: “As I watched Jack grow up I could always tell he was a little different – and I can see that you all can smile knowingly at that – he was wise beyond his age. He kept us all together.
“As he grew older his dad Julian roped him into helping out at the rugby club, whether that was painting, general maintenance or collecting the flags – rugby became a major part of his life and he developed a strong circle of friends at the club.
“Jack wanted to learn everything in depth, he was always prepared to talk and listen – his intellect was beyond his years.”
On the day of Jack’s death he had been talking with his great uncle about his time in Kenya, spending much of his time caring for the kids at a children’s orphanage – his mother Kate was sure he may move out there in the future.
Jack spoke about how the deprivation had made a serious impact on his worldly outlook.
His great uncle said: “What I saw that day was a man who had matured and knew more of the world around him.
“The naivety of youth had gone, but what remained was his compassion and sense of humour.”
One of four siblings, Jasmine, Stevie and Kimberley, he had a notable and lasting impact on all who knew him and his trademark cheeky grin.
Jack’s sister Jasmine said the last time she saw him had been the night of his death, but that she had not got a proper chance to say goodbye to the brother she loved.
“We were robbed of one of the most important lights in our lives,” she said.
“We have all lost a part of us, big or small.
“I have lost a brother, I have lost a friend, I have lost our private jokes and our secrets. We had a connection that no one could understand.
“I don’t think I’ll ever accept that Jack has been taken away from us like this. The pain will never fade.
“I am a different person now, but I will do everything I can to be someone Jack would be proud of.
“Every day for the rest of my life will be a challenge. But at the end of each one, I know I will be a step closer to seeing my brother again.”
Another of Jack’s trademarks was his passion for which he approached any new topic, with the ability to make people as intrigued as he was on any given subject.
His love of aircraft saw him and his father Julian, chairman of Painswick rugby club, attend Fairford Air Show each year.
Jack often quizzed his uncle about his time serving in the military, eager to learn about the good and the bad, before deciding to enlist himself – undergoing hours of physio to overcome a congenital issue with his leg to pass the army fitness tests.
He was thrilled when he was accepted by his first choice of regiment, 32 Regiment Royal Artillery.
Major H Hollis RA, battery commander, 22 (Gibraltar 1779-1783) battery, 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “He stood out right from the start and was our most junior soldier, I was struck by his honest and genuine nature.
“He never complained, never asked for help, just grinned and carried on.
“He was someone we could trust. He has left a positive impact on the battery. He and his service will be remembered and his good will is something that will be with me for much longer.”
Jack had been a signaller within the regiment while on duty in Cyprus, providing communication for troops and operated the radio in the field which he would carry on his back.
Jack’s father Julian added: “For the messages of support we have had from the rugby community, the army community and the Stroud community, and for the way people have treated us with compassion, I just want to say thank you.
“Jack was a good friend, a great son and I am very proud of him.”
The Revered C Stokes, Chaplain to the Forces, asked others to go through life with the same love, determination and compassion that Jack had done.
“He was always at the centre of family life and they were at the centre of everything he did,” he told the crowd.
“Jack was a family man at heart. He and his dad were inseparable, they did everything together.
“He was a unique young man in so many ways. Jack will be remembered for how his love shone out to all. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
Draped behind the speakers during the speeches hung the flag of the 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, and below them were laid a decoration of flowers that spelt the name Jack and brother.
The song ‘Don’t you’ by Simple Minds was the song chosen by the family to end the remembrance service.
Members of the 32 Regiment Royal Artillery lined the way for Jack’s coffin to leave in the hearse for Stroud Cemetery in Horns Road.
Jack was honoured with both a three-volley salute and the playing of The Last Post by Bombadier John Bailey on the bugel, casting a sombre mood over the 200-strong well-wishers.
His passing was sudden but his memory will live on with all those close to him, through his passion for life, characteristic grin and determination.
A wake was held back at Painswick Rugby Club, where Jack played for Painswick RFC and his father Julian is chairman.
Jack Mitchell was born on October 5, 1992, he died on February 5 2017 after an alleged assault at Warehouse nightclub in Stroud.
All photos taken by Simon Pizzey