Belgrave Road Pays Final Respect
Leicester’s Belgrave Road fell silent as people paid their final respects to one of their own. Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, an intelligence officer with the RAF, was named as one of the five British personnel that died when the Lynx helicopter they were travelling in came down in Kandahar province.
Known as Rak to his friends, the young pilot died alongside fellow Intelligence Corps non-commissioned officer Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Class 2 Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters from the Army Air Corps.
Draped in a Union flag, his coffin which was slowly lead up Belgrave Road where lines of mourners stood in silence, the majority with tears in their eyes. Mourners included schoolchildren from Abbey Primary who saluted as his coffin passed.
Dipak Fakey, from Abbey Primary, said, “We felt that it was important for the children, who are very much part of the community, to understand what has happened and to pay their respects. It was very emotional to see the car go by. Rakesh was Leicester born and he gave his life for his country. We have so much pride in that.”
Whilst family friend, Kanti Chauhan, said. “My brother was in the RAF so it’s a very personal thing to be here today. I think the family will take comfort in the amount of support and people they have seen coming out today to pay their respects. He was a soldier who gave his life for his country. It’s heart-breaking.”
Tributes started with a 24-strong party of his RAF colleagues, who carried rifles with bayonets-fixed along with mourners who lowered their heads. The Reverend Duncan Raynor said, “He wanted to make a difference to the world and in doing so he met his death.”
His father, Kishor, 61, said: “Rakesh was a devoted citizen of this country. I am so proud of him.” Whilst his brother Kesh, 31, said: “I want to thank Rakesh for being there for all of us and making me smile. We shall miss you.”
Captain Joel Waller, of the Army Intelligence Corps, said: “He made it to the sharp end of the intelligence branch, the toughest, most exacting branch, and he absolutely nailed it.” His mother, Jyoti, 56, placed a kiss on his coffin before it was raised on the shoulders of six members of the RAF’s Queen’s Colour Squadron
A tribute also came from a RAF Hawk jet which flew at 300mph at 1,000ft, directly over the crematorium.