Envoy `died a soldier’s and hero’s death’
Soldiers pay tribute at London funeral for Canadian official
Slain senior diplomat chose Afghanistan posting over New York
Jan. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
LONDON—Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry lived life to the full.
Whether cheering a rugby team or helping to rebuild Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber ended his life, Berry did it with gusto and passion.
That’s the 59-year-old who mourners remembered yesterday after Canadian soldiers, most of them serving in Afghanistan, carried his flag-draped coffin into St. Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church at Trafalgar Square.
Berry, who was born in Wales and served Canada around the world, made his final trip to the lament of a lone piper and the Last Post of a bugler.
“Glyn, the consummate diplomat, died a soldier’s and hero’s death,” said his friend, Brig. Nigel Hall. “He was a soldier of peace.”
Berry’s funeral was a reminder of the risks Canadian soldiers will face as 2,000 extra troops head for a NATO mission in violence-torn Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is a very dangerous place and the insurgents are very determined — and there’s a lot of them,” Sgt. Joe Brink, 29, told reporters after carrying Berry’s coffin.
Brink, who was riding in Berry’s convoy when a suicide bomber rammed it Jan. 15, said his advice to Canadian soldiers heading to the southern Kandahar region is to stay alert.
“There’s no room for complacency,” said Brink of Gibbons, Alta. “You have to always be on guard. Anything can happen, quite obviously, and when things do happen, it’s instantaneous.”
Three soldiers in Berry’s convoy suffered devastating wounds in the attack.
Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan David Sproule said: “I think Canadians should know that it’s very dangerous (in Kandahar). I’m hoping and I’m praying that there won’t be more casualties but, if there are, I think Canadians will accept that as part of our mission.
“I want to assure you that we are doing in Afghanistan everything we possibly can to minimize the risks to our soldiers and to our diplomats,” he added in an interview.
Also yesterday, British Defence Minister John Reid told the House of Commons that close to 5,000 more British soldiers would be sent to Afghanistan, 3,300 of them for the NATO mission in the south.
“Whatever the difficulties and the dangers, and I do not hide them from the House or from the country, those risks are nothing compared to the dangers to our country and our people of allowing Afghanistan to fall back into the clutches of the Taliban and international terrorism,” Reid said.
Berry, Canada’s senior diplomat in southern Afghanistan, knew the risks. Yet he gave up a posting in New York — and what a friend described as an apartment with a stunning view — when he volunteered last August to head a rebuilding mission around Kandahar.
“He felt deeply that the people of Afghanistan deserved a better life,” Canada’s deputy foreign affairs minister Peter Harder told about 300 mourners.
Only weeks before the attack that killed him, Berry found himself seconds away from a bomb attack on a convoy. Yet he didn’t leave.
“Nobody could have been more dedicated to the people of Afghanistan,” Harder said.
Berry believed “the principle challenge is not peacekeeping but peace building (which requires) … people on the ground that can deliver the goods,” he added.
After joining Canada’s external affairs department in 1977, Berry’s assignments included postings in Norway, Cuba, London, New York, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Among the mourners were Berry’s wife of 33 years, Valerie, and their two sons Gareth and Rhys.
“My father used to say, `Whatever you do in life, make sure you’re happy and make damn sure you’ve got a good story at the end of it.’ My father lived by that in everything he did,” Rhys told the mourners.
Passionate about poetry, rugby, good beer and all things Welsh, Berry’s joie de vivre twice had him singing from the top of a table at gatherings in Toronto and Kandahar, Rhys said.
“We’ll miss you so much,” he added.
Master Cpl. Niall Anthony was in Berry’s convoy when the suicide bomber struck.
“A split second after the explosion … it was just mayhem and carnage,” he said, after the funeral.
Added Brink: “When they destroyed this vehicle, they also killed two civilian Afghans, so hopefully that will turn eventually the Afghan local populace against the insurgents as well, which would benefit us.”
Also attending the funeral were Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who lost his seat in Monday’s election, Canadian High Commissioner Mel Cappe and retired general, now Senator, Roméo Dallaire.