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Funeral director Helen Osment saves Lyndhurst man Colin Biddlecombe from welfare funeral to give him 'fitting' send-off

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A LYNDHURST man who had been due to have a council funeral was given a spectacular send-off with an escort of vintage motorbikes down the high street after a local funeral director stepped in.

Helen Osment vowed to help after discovering that the late Colin Biddlecombe (74), a retired mechanic from the village, was to receive a welfare service by New Forest District Council – sometimes known as a pauper's funeral.

Helen, who works for J&L Sturney funeral directors in Lyndhurst, said: “It started when a friend of Colin’s came in to see if we were preparing his funeral, which we weren’t.

Helen Osment leading the cortège
Helen Osment leading the cortège

"I rang around other directors and finally discovered that the NFDC were organising a welfare one for him.

“Colin was really well known in Lyndhurst and the New Forest. He was familiar figure on his vintage Bonneville motorbikes which he had three of.

"I couldn’t bear the thought that he had no one to care for him on his last journey so I asked my bosses if we could step in and, to my delight, they agreed.

"It was the first time anything like that has happened to me in 22 years of being in the business.”

Helen quickly set about organising what she felt would be a fitting send-off for Colin, contacting the New Forest Vintage Motorbike Club to see if they could help.

They agreed to escort Colin’s coffin down Lyndhurst High Street last Thursday before being taken to Test Valley Crematorium in Romsey.

Helen said: “Motorbikes were Colin's great love. Other bike clubs in the area asked if they could also join in, so in the end there were loads.

Vintage bikers escort Colin Biddlecombe's funeral cortege through Lyndhurst (56838254)
Vintage bikers escort Colin Biddlecombe's funeral cortege through Lyndhurst (56838254)

"I was standing waiting with the hearse when I heard the roar of the first bikes arriving – it literally made the hairs on my arms stand on end.

“Going through the village was a fantastic sight with these amazing bikes following the cortège, with people on the pavements bowing and waving as Colin went by.

"It really brought a tear to my eye – and a few of the bikers' as well.”

Colin’s nickname was Snowy, so Helen had arranged for white flowers to be laid on top of his coffin, trimmed with fir cones and twigs from his beloved New Forest.

Colin’s coffin was carried into the crematorium to a Johnny Cash number and came out to Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell.

A wake was held for him at the Lyndhurst’s Nondescripts club which hosted it free of charge.

Helen said: “Lyndhurst really did Colin proud. A friend of his said after the service, ‘He would have loved that.’

"I am so grateful to my bosses for what they did – the funeral would normally have cost £4,500.

“It was a wonderful gesture and the bikers were fantastic."

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