23rd JUNE 2011
Exactly a week after losing Lloydy, he is repatriated. The days before his repat were spent trying to organise as much as possible so that getting him home was made as easy as it could be. On the Monday Caz and I travelled back to Essex, I felt like I needed to be there to organise things more effectively, before travelling home again on the Tuesday night. Those few days were spent trying to get a list together of all those that wanted to attend Lloydy’s homecoming, of which there were many, and all the while the messages of sympathy continued to flow in.
At times the emotion of it all would hit me so hard, mainly at night, when I’d be lying there with my own thoughts, no longer busy with the day’s requirements. Caz would console me constantly and without her I don’t know what I would have done. I’m strong, but I’m not sure that even I would have had the strength to endure losing Lloydy without her. However, I know I had to be strong, because I knew, more than ever, that’s what Lloydy needed me to be. I needed to step up and be his big brother and I wouldn’t and couldn’t fail him.
The repat was haunting and throughout the rest of my days the majestic roar of a chinook will be synonymous with Lloydy coming home. For what seems like an age and from a distance unfathomable the emotion boils, because you know that chinook is carrying special cargo. We are all gathered under a marque directly facing the Clocktower and already his name “Tpr Lloyd Newell” is inscribed immortally at the base, he never beat the clock. As the roar of the blades get closer I feel myself stiffen, containing the emotion. I still can’t believe this is happening and as I glance to my right at my sister-in-law and niece, I’m heartbroken all over again. This is not how this is meant to be. The roar continues to grow louder until it’s overhead, the noise is deafening and it hits me harder than ever that this is really happening, that in a few moments, that, that chinook is going to be grounded and my little brother is going to be carried out by six.
All the while the six have been standing to attention, patiently waiting Lloydys arrival and as the chinook touches down and the tailgate opens the RSM ushers them forward. From the marque we all just watch and as the six emerge with Lloydy from the tailgate, we are ushered forward to the chapel. His coffin is lowered carefully onto A-frames, it is draped with the Union Jack and his sandy beret sits on top. I keep telling myself this isn't real, I keep looking at my sister-in-law and niece hoping this isn't real, but I know that in that coffin my little brothers body lies peacefully. It is without doubt the hardest thought to get my head around, the hardest to believe and no amount of hoping or pinching myself is going to render this nothing more than a horrible nightmare that I'll soon wake from. This is the brutal, painful, heart breaking reality of conflict and my little brother has paid the ultimate price.
After the short service Lloydy is carried out to the waiting Herse and is driven away, the reality of what is happening, as we are once again assembled around the Clocktower, is difficult to comprehend, my brother is gone and that is a reality I'm not ready for.
A week later Caz and I visited the funeral parlour where Lloydys body was being prepared for burial, we're ushered in to the room and there I am, standing next to his body in the Chapel of Rest, staring at him in complete and utter disbelief. The last time I was stood next to him was the Easter before he deployed, we had so much fun that weekend. But there he was, laying perfectly still and peaceful, resplendent in his No.2's and all I can think about is "what the fuck have they done to his hair!" Lloydy had honed the skill, reminiscent of a mental parrot nodding frantically, getting gel through his hair and on to everything within a 1 mile radius!
His hair had no gel in it and was just a soft blonde mop, which he would have been doing his pieces about. I remember at one point turning away to sit at the small table in the room and writing some words for him, as daft as it sounds I knew he'd be watching me and I wanted to remain strong. Caz had left me alone by this point just so I could be alone with him. On the Easter weekend when we were last together I'd given him his birthday present, a Superdry jacket, the one with the three zips on the front. I'd bought myself one a few years before when they first came out, he was with me when I bought it, and from that moment on, would try and nick it. When we left the parlour that day, I left my jacket with him, placing it with the words I had written, with him in his coffin, it was either that or the Rolex he'd always tried to nick and I thought to be honest he would have been doing his nut had I put that in there!
On leaving I placed my lips on his ice cold forehead and kissed him goodbye for the very last time and utter the words "blue skies little brother." The reality was finally beginning to sink in.
16th JUNE 2017
6 years after Lloydy was killed in action on his third tour of Afghanistan, Karl along with his teammates made the final ascent of The 100 Peaks Challenge on to the summit of Pen Y Fan (in the Brecon Beacons) via Jacobs Ladder, in that moment, 25 days of emotion hit him like a train. Nearly two and half years of planning and 25 days of gruelling endurance had been realised in that moment, not to mention the significance of the occasion and the reason why the team were making that climb in the first place, to celebrate Lloydy and the life he led. Karl's little brother was a giant among men, he looked up to him as much as he looked up to Karl and for 2 and half years he tried to create a fitting tribute to the man he was, we hope, come the end of this, if you're reading the book when it's finished, you believe that we did.