Nine-year-old Victoria Chant had every reason to look both proud and tearful as she said a last goodbye to her father, Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, at the Guards Chapel in London on Tuesday morning
The funeral of WO1 Chant was an occasion for both celebrating a remarkable man — larger than life in both physique and character — and for mourning his death.
WO1 Chant, 40, was the most senior of the five men killed by a rogue policeman on Nov 3, while having a tea break at a checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
On the very day he died he was to have learnt that he had been promoted to an officer, in recognition of his extraordinary prowess as a soldier. “I could not have wished for a better man to be Regimental Sergeant Major,” wrote Brig David Madden, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of 1st Bn Grenadier Guards, in his last report on WO1 Chant this spring.
Brig Madden’s was one of a series of moving tributes in which the “formidable” personality of WO1 Chant came across loud and clear, as his instructions to his men always did. “Daz” was as fierce, committed, competitive and foul-mouthed as RSMs are in legend, but the brusque exterior protected a warm heart, well-known both to the soldiers he quietly helped, and his family, whom he adored.
No one knew that better than his three children, Connor, 16, Adam 11, and Victoria. The week after his father died, Connor wrote on Facebook: “I’m so, so, so proud of you. I’m guna (sic) miss you shouting at me to get my hair cut… you were my all, but I know you died doing something you loved, which I respect dearly.”
It was a day for unity in grief. WO1 Chant’s new wife, Nausheen (Sheenie) and his ex-wife, Constance (Connie), embraced as they met in the frosty sunshine before the service.
Together they went off to speak to the Duke of Edinburgh, Colonel in Chief of the Grenadier Guards, who had known WO1 Chant as his driver whenever he visited Wellington Barracks.
As they proceeded into the chapel, the children then held hands for comfort, followed by their father’s coffin draped in the Union flag and topped off with his regimental cap.
For all the solemnity of the setting, and the grandeur of hymns that included Jerusalem and I Vow To Thee, My Country, WO1 Chant’s funeral was a personal service.
He emerged from the tributes as a popular and respected individual with a sense of humour, who would gladly share a port with the padre, when he wasn’t goading his men to excel themselves.
His three children will have fond memories of the man who loved to watch them play sports or take them out to theme parks.
But in February Sheenie Chant is due to give birth to his fourth child. In her tribute to the man to whom she had only been married for an agonisingly brief few months, she said:
“His devotion to his children and myself will never be equalled. I will now raise our son with the strength God gives us until we meet again, darling Darren.”