A funeral fit for a hero
THEY came in their numbers to say farewell to an old soldier.
All Hallows Church in Gedling was packed with family, friends and comrades to honour the remarkable life of 90-year-old D-Day veteran Leslie Allsopp.
As the ex-paratrooper's coffin was carried into the church through an honour guard of colourful standards representing the Royal British Legion and other uniformed organisations, the evocative sound of Vera Lynn singing songs from the war years set the tone.
For this was to be a celebration of the life a man for whom dedication was his byword.
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Because there was far more to Les Allsopp than his years fighting for freedom during the Second World War.
He was first and foremost a family man: father of two, grandfather of six, great grandfather of five; he ran a successful newsagents business in Nottingham until he was into his 70s, and he gave unstinting, lifelong service to charity until he was forced to ease up just a few months before he died.
Les Allsopp was born into a large family in St Ann's and, as the Reverend Keith Williams explained to the congregation, school wasn't high on his list of priorities. He found work in the building trade, but the outbreak of war changed Les Allsopp's life. He was called up for the Royal Artillery but soon volunteered for something more adventurous, joining the Parachute Regiment to begin training for the invasion of Normandy.
It was while practising at Ringway airfield in Manchester that he met a young parachute packer named Phyllis who would become his wife and mother to David and Linda.
In tributes read by former Post journalist Andy Smart and Alex Van Straubanzee, CEO of NewstrAid, Les's wartime courage in the face of the enemy, which earned him a mention in Despatches, was given its rightful prominence.
But Mr Straubanzee also highlighted his astonishing record as president of the NewstrAid Benevolent Fund, affectionately known as the Old Ben Charity, which he served for more than 60 years.
And there was a reminder of his many years working for the Royal British Legion, most recently as treasurer of the Nottingham City branch.
The moving service was concluded with two pieces of poetry. Nick Cook read Death Is Nothing At All before another veteran, Ernest Sturman, summed it all up with the meaningful words of The Soldier.
And then, as the strains of the Last Post began to fade, Les Allsopp's coffin was carried out, covered with the union flag, his Parachute Regiment red beret sitting proudly on top, to a waiting escort of motorcycles of the Royal British Legion riders branch.
As Andy Smart commented: "It was an honour to have known him. For many people and for many reasons, Les Allsopp will always be remembered as one of life's heroes."