THE funeral has taken place in Blackwood today of a sergeant in the Welsh Guards from Gwent, who was killed during a training exercise in west Wales last month.

Father-of-two Gavin Hillier died on Thursday March 4 in what the Ministry of Defence has called a "non-operational training incident" at the Castlemartin tank range in Pembrokeshire.

People gathered to pay their respects as a horse-drawn hearse bearing Sgt Hillier's coffin - draped in the Union flag - passed along Blaina High Street this morning before moving on to the Sirhowy Valley Crematorium in Blackwood.

During his Army career Sergeant Hillier, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, served across the world, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

In 2019 he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal by the colonel of the regiment, Prince Charles. At the time of his death he was serving as the motor transport colour sergeant.

The much-loved father leaves behind wife Karyn, and sons Declan and Connor.

A family statement following his death last month, read: "I thank you for the day you came into my life and made me your wife and became the father to our two beautiful boys.

"We are absolutely heartbroken and can't express how proud we are of you. Our boys will continue to make you proud and you will forever live on through them.


"Daddy, we are not ready to say goodbye just yet so until we meet again, we love you always. Love, your heartbroken wife and boys."

The Ministry of Defence said Sergeant Hillier was "universally loved across the battalion".

A police investigation into the circumstances of Sgt Hillier's death has been launched.

Previous incidents at the Castlemartin ranges have claimed the lives of soldiers.

In 2017, corporals Matthew Hatfield and Darren Neilson of the Royal Tank Regiment died after their tank exploded during a training exercise on a firing range.

A 21-year-old soldier, Mike Maguire, died at Castlemartin in 2012 after being shot in the head while relaxing at a location just outside the training range.

A 2013 inquest into his death heard he was hit in the temple by a single machine gun bullet fired by a fellow soldier during a training exercise.

The inquest jury ruled Ranger Maguire, who was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, had been unlawfully killed.