A Memorial Service to
Celebrate the Life
R. Blake Hartley
Aged 25 Years
Much Loved and Never Forgotten
2.0 pm, Saturday, 6th August, 2005
St Peter’s Church, Cound, Shropshire.
Introduction - by the Reverend Robert Payne.
Poem – ‘Goodbye’ by Sally Perrin, Blake’s mother.
Blake had so much love to give,
And so much life to live,
Why has he left?
Leaving us mystified, bereft,
Just vanished, gone with no warning,
His future wiped out
No more fun and laughter,
All of us mourning.
How could this happen?
This sensible lad, so practical and capable,
He knew the mountains, glaciers and the river,
He was in the army, strong, fit and able,
A leader in the making, resourceful, clever,
Not one to disappear or shirk responsibility,
And he loved Chamonix, the snow and ice there,
Maybe his home now, forever.
Since the day he was born, he was always happy,
Never one to bear a grudge, moan or get angry,
Very loyal, patient and fair, lived life to the full, never a moment to spare,
A good friend to so many, his absence now so hard to bear.
Why does God take the best first?
How come it feels more like a curse!
It’s said that loosing a child is the worst,
But not knowing what happened, is what really hurts.
I’d rather know,
I am feeling angry now,
My son was too young to go,
No more long chats into the night,
No one to give me sensible advice, put me right
About fitness, climbing mountains, blisters,
Expeditions and his sisters!
I get through each day; do what has to be done,
Cry from time to time as things remind me of what’s gone,
Overcome with tiredness, sleep finally puts in a claim,
And I dream, worrying of all the different ways he could have passed on.
Then in the morning waking with a heart heavy, full of pain,
Not believing what has happened, so much grief,
Why Blake? Why us? How can life ever be the same again?
It’s a never ending nightmare from which there’s no release.
Oh, how I wish that you were here Blake,
I know you probably are somewhere,
But it’s not the same, I want you back for everyone’s sake,
You would have been the one today, your 26th birthday, with us to share
Your unfailing good humour, your cheeky smile and laid-back attitude,
Always ready to lend a hand,
Loving a party, and a joke,
So, why leave us, that’s what I don’t understand.
Not a day goes by when I don’t think about you,
Why did you have to go beyond our reach,
You should be here enjoying life too, not robbed of your tomorrow,
But…….. I know the time has come to let you go,
Wherever you are, I hope you are happy and at peace,
It may take a while for us to reconcile our sorrow,
The pain will last and probably never cease
Not for a long while at least.
So, I hope you can hear this my son,
I love you loads, I always have,
I’m very proud of everything you’ve done,
One day I hope we will meet again,
Till then my darling, happy birthday,
Take care, goodbye and I hope you’re having fun.
And he probably is!
By Sally Perrin
Hymn – Jerusalem
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
Reading – ‘Revelations 21’ Verses 1 – 7 (Taken from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible) read by Tom Beaver (Blake’s cousin.)
1: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
2: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
3: and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
4: he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
5: And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6: And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.
7: He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son
Address – by Richard Hartley, Blake’s Father.
For the Love of Blake
As this service is a celebration of the 25 years that Blake had here on earth I think it entirely appropriate that you should all applaud, laugh, say “Hear hear” or cry at the right times. I welcome audience participation – you will know when it is called for. There are some very brave people going to stand in front of you. I am sure that Blake would wish you to respond on his behalf. And if I or anyone else falters your understanding will be much appreciated.
I stand before you a proud father not only of Blake but also of Maria. But today we are here to talk about Blake, in a few weeks time it will be Maria’s big day.
I have not only lost a son but also my soulmate and best friend, we had a special relationship and understanding of each other, and his love for me was unconditional. I could see so much of me in him and we often thought down the same lines.
I want you when you see or hear a game of cricket being played to think of Blake; I want you to think that Blake lived his life like that game, it’s almost a religion. We can think of the all-pervading nature of God in cricketing terms:
I am the batsman and the bat;
the bowler and the ball;
The cricket pitch, stumps and all !
He knew the boundaries of life – what you can go up to but not beyond. He knew that when he was out, he was out; and to take it like a man. He knew he could take a chance by weighing up the odds on a single run. By hitting 6’s or 4’s there is also a chance of being caught-out. He knew he could be stumped at any time. Blake played life with a straight bat (a reminder of his correctness of action) Blake kept his eye on the ball (which showed he was not going to be diverted from his true objectives). And Blake learnt to play the game (and that is to be fair and honest in his dealings with others).
Blake did not wear his religion on his sleeve, but there again he was not afraid to talk or to write about our maker. On the 23rd February 2004 he wrote that “Barrosa has a certain beauty, brought to life by a mild frost and deep blue skies with bright sunshine. Indeed it would appear that God has a copy of our program and has decided that he likes 13 Platoon.”
And again he writes “Tuesday morning saw the culmination of hours of preparation in the company prayers. I had volunteered at an early stage to help out.” Later he writes about “good relations with the Big Man upstairs.” And on 9th May 2004 he states “The week ended with academy chapel service. This is one area of Sandhurst that I find quite enjoyable.”
Christian values shone out of him, how many people have received the rough edge of Blake’s tongue? I suggest no-one. He was generous with the time he gave to others. He had a zest for life – it was about making sure that he made the world, or at least his bit of it, a better place than how he found it. By giving time to help others and with his love of family and friends, he was able to achieve his own inner contentment.
From the many, many friends of his the overriding message is clear: - How lucky one was to have had his friendship and for him to have been part of one’s life. Happiness not only shone out of him, but happiness radiated off him like the glow that the child has in the Ready-Brek adverts.
The comments of his fellow cadets will give you a flavour of how he was perceived by others, I hasten to add that these comments were written down on the 21st of June last year some 6 weeks before the fateful trip to Chamonix: - “Made a good job of Platoon Sergeant, cool reasoning throughout. Informed and organised. Good humour. Reliable under pressure, makes working with Blake a pleasure rather than a chore. Blake is a very strong and competent leader through good knowledge and good admin who always has the respect of his section. Always willing to helpfully suggest ideas without undermining command structure. Blake is the sort of Officer Cadet that you want in your section, he is confident and composed. He put in an excellent performance and is very capable of being a Commander.” Praise indeed.
Blake had permanent homes here in Shropshire, but for much of his life he lived elsewhere. Those that come to mind are his prep school Prestfelde on London Road, Shrewsbury where he was at school from the age of 4 till almost 13. Then on to Meynell House at Ellesmere College his Public school again here in Shropshire, from 13 to 18. We go a bit further afield next for a Gap Year at Geelong Grammar School Outward Bound in Australia. Then on to Reading University for 3 years with the 1st year at Whiteknights Hall and the next 2 years at 10 Holmes Road, where very firm friends were made.
After Blake got his Bsc with Honours in Agriculture, his great love of climbing got the better of him and he moved to 129 Green Ridges in Heddington, Oxford so he could go climbing in Argentina with the OTC which in fact was switched to Canada; he also spent some four months at Rue Michelle Croz in Chamonix, Mt Blanc in France with friends doing his great love – climbing.
His next and final residence was The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. The Army of course being his other great love, in fact, 11 years previously he joined the Army section of the Combined Cadet Force, and it was during this time that his great love of climbing started. Blake was an outstanding cadet and was considered one of the most promising young leaders to graduate from Ellesmere College at that time. Upon joining the Oxford University Officers Training corps in 1999, he passed many Leadership and Instructor courses. He was one of only a few to be picked to go on the arduous assent of the Gthabaska Glacier in Canada in very poor conditions where sound ice-climbing skills and sound judgment was needed. While at Sandhurst he was awarded full Colours for the outstanding contribution he made whilst climbing and mountaineering. The Officer in Charge was quite clear that Blake was as he put it, “Head and shoulders above the competition.” Blake was in heaven when he was climbing.
He was able the slip the surly bonds of earth,
Sun ward he climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, and did a hundred things you have not dreamed of,
High in the sunlit silence, he chased the shouting wind along,
Up, up higher he went into the burning blue,
He topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
where never lark or even eagle flew,
And with a silent lifting mind he trod,
The high un trespassed sanctity of space,
And put out his hand and touched the face of God.
Just for a moment I would like to take you back some 16 years to when Blake would have been 10 and I had taken both him and Maria for a holiday on the Greek island of Kos, we found ourselves on an isolated beach and set about some snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing. Just around the corner was another cove and there on the half moon of beach were hundreds of Starfish that as the tide had turned became completely stranded. When I couldn't see Blake on our beach I looked round the corner to see him busily picking up the starfish one at a time and running with them down to the edge of the sea and throwing them back in. I watched for a while then asked Blake “Why are you doing that? There are thousands of them, what you’re doing won’t make any difference, you know.” Blake didn’t answer immediately, but I could see the cogs turning as he simply picked up another starfish, ran to the sea and put it back in. “It will to that one Dad!” he said.
And how do I feel? Devastated and heartbroken is the short answer. My philosophy has always been if you live your life fairly and treat others fairly then fairness will come around. And that’s why last summer hurt so much. Last August was about learning that life’s not fair. I knew after 2 days that the worst had happened. There was no way that he would have taken himself off somewhere. I sat in a crumpled heap, my world ground to a holt. But I also knew that the world just kept going. Courageous friends crept through the door, hugging, offering help. We humbly received the flowers, cards, letters and food that poured in. May I say a special thank-you to everyone. I spent hours staring ahead into nothing (just like cats do.) The loneliness of grief is unbearable. Giving time and listening are gifts to grieving people, Thank-you once again. Especially to those that kept calling in week after week, month after month. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child, only those who have themselves lost one can understand that particular pain.
Now a year later, I still have a long journey ahead, the overpowering shock sometimes sweeps me off my feet: It is all so horrendous. When Blake went, part of me died too, it’s like an incessant internal wound that never heals. I have no fear of death, nearly every day I say “God Bless you Blake – till we meet again.” But on the bright side I have decided I have some living to do, not just for me, but for him; and Oh boy! Am I going to live. He was extraordinary well travelled, having visited more countries than I have! Well now it’s catch-up time!
He was an adventurer – he could sniff adventure a mile away. And that walk of his, anybody that went for a walk with Blake will know what I mean when I say he didn’t just walk – he strode along! That and his trademark glasses, his sense of humour and his love of doing barbeques. Blake put a bit of fun into the world, somehow he just made it go round better. Blake believed in life before death, and in life after death. He accepted that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue.
Blake embraced his individuality, he was meant to be who he was; he really was such a warm-hearted, friendly and sympathetic person and he let those qualities shine through, there was not an ounce of spite or envy in him, the world could use a few more like him.
I will never fully recover from his passing, he was a star who lit up everyone’s life, he was always at peace with the world and his role in it. Blake was fiercely proud of England, British Agriculture and Golding. He always wanted to know how the latest project was going, and to see the ones that had been completed.
I don’t know that any of you would know, but his name will live on in a series of some 4 books written by John Waddington-Feather, where the main character is the Reverend Detective Inspector Blake Hartley. We found the books in his room all signed by the author, and dedicated “To the original Blake Hartley.” In the preface of the latest book it explains about his disappearance in Chamonix. And of course it will come as no surprise that Blake told no one, but then that was typical of him. Where to get copies of the books will be available at Golding where I hope you will all come after this service. It will also be posted on the website. I also intend to install a small wind turbine which will make electricity from the wind, heating the house and swimming pool complex; then I can think of all that creative energy and warmth of his as the blades revolve gracefully; it was a project that he was very interested in and it will be my lasting testament to him.
Blake was no trouble from the time he came into the world, in fact, he was a dream child. Blake was not one to stay in bed in the morning, he lived a fast life, always off somewhere, always doing something – now we know why. I had always said that he would break a few hearts; I never knew that instead of a few, it would run into hundreds. I suppose that he gave so much pleasure to so many people that it is only fit that on this day so many people have turned out to say their final Goodbye or should it be Adieu? Spanish was Blake’s 2nd language and it means “Goodbye till we meet again.” Blake once said to me “Dad I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.”
Can I ask one thing of all of you? When you travel abroad and you see a church door open, would you go in and please light a candle for Blake. Oh! And don’t forget what I told you about cricket.
Blake is “there” embedded in the souls of all those he loved. Please don’t think of Blake as a life interrupted – but as a life completed.
We cannot think of them as dead
Who walk with us no more
Along the path of life we tread
They have but gone before.
Written carefully and lovingly especially for you Blake, with love from Dad.
Hymn – How Great Thou Art
Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;
And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!
Thoughts – from Maria Hartley (Blake’s sister.)
"Who was Blake? Blake is my brother.
Blake’s disappearance does not mean I forget, nor is it an end. What I’m about to say is not a goodbye. Yes - Part of me is forever changed; part of my soul is missing without him. There is a sense of loss and emptiness in me because of his absence, but his spirit is enduring. Blake’s disappearance is the saddest and most unexpected thing to have happened to my family.
I often think how I wish I could see Blake one last time, and then I remember that I did. I went over to the UK, and he made a considerable effort to see me, having just returned from a military exercise. He drove down to London, and we went out for the evening to China town with Mum, Dave, and Steph, and Blake slept that night on the floor of the hotel. The next day he asked if I'd like to see where he’d been doing his officer training. Myself, Blake and Steph went in his car to Sandhurst and had to listen to his terrible taste in music. I saw where he’d been staying, living and training for the last year. In his room I saw the near dead plant, the numerous photos of himself on the wall, and the pile of clothes hidden in the bottom of his wardrobe. He walked us around the grounds, buildings and the lake. It was a beautiful day and I got Steph to take photos of myself and Blake together. As usual mum insisted my brother and I hug each other goodbye, and as usual we put on our icky faces and had a brief hug. Smiled and said goodbye. I remember looking back over my shoulder at him.
A few weeks later, he’d been reported as missing after a night celebrating his birthday. I was sure he’d be found or would come back. We are all still waiting. I sometimes like to delude myself that he’ll turn up one day... that some how he is still out there. I often think of lost memories that were to be made, and how my grief has left me alone in many ways. But today, he is here, in me, and each one of you.
Anyway I hope Blake might visit me time to time, as I think of him, miss him and will love him always. But I guess I shouldn’t expect too much, as he never was one for staying in touch.
In closing, I would like to thank all the people who have attended today in honoring Blake and the support of family, friends and my fiancé Scot."
Poem – ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling read by Beth Taylor.
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head
When all about you men are losing theirs
And blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowances for their doubting, too.
If you can wait but not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good nor talk too wise,
If you can dream but not make dreams your master,
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools,
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,
And lose and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And to hold on when there is nothing in you
But the will that says to the, hold on
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or neither walks with kings nor loses the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With 60 seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And which is more; you'll be a man, my son.
Anthem – ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ by L. Quarantotto, sung by Janet Mitchell with the piano played by Tim Wright.
Thoughts about Blake –
from - Mike Sampson, Blake’s Housemaster at Ellesmere College.
"I first met Blake in the summer term of 1993 when he sat, successfully, for a Science Exhibition to Ellesmere College. If the headmaster’s notes are correct he had previously been shown around the school and met by my colleague Keith Shuttleworth. In the following September Blake joined Meynell House in what was then known as the ‘Shell’.
It was soon apparent that he was his own man and possessed of a strength of character not evident in the majority of young men at this stage of their development. He played his sport for both House and School, (He achieved his first mention in the Ellesmerian Magazine when the Under 14 Hockey coach felt bound to mention that “R B Hartley showed some useful stick skills.”) and it rapidly became evident that he would make full use of the opportunities outside the classroom. In particular his love of the outdoors and the activities of the College Combined Cadet force rose to the fore.
Meanwhile he worked to overcome the difficulties posed by dyslexia to gain his GCSE’s and to move into the sixth form. He continued to flourish, representing the Hockey XI for two years and gaining his colours whilst also representing the school at cross-country and swimming.
Blake attended a number of CCF camps and Adventurous Training Expeditions and reports from the staff involved complimented him on his approach and, as he moved through the school, on his leadership qualities. These and his resourcefulness lead to him being appointed Head Cadet in his final year whilst being promoted to Under Officer – the highest rank available to a cadet.
In his sixthform years Blake was an effective House Prefect – he knew of all the ‘wrinkles’ that juniors could find in the operation of the House! He was particularly helpful to me in his role as House Secretary. Strangely, when you realise that, on the whole, boys at school do their best to avoid writing, he perpetuated the tradition that each House Secretary would write longer minutes than the previous incumbent. Given his dyslexia this was a brave, if just occasionally indecipherable, effort. His contribution to the life of the school was further recognised by his appointment as a College Prefect.
A feature of his make up was that I can never remember Blake appearing flustered. Whether it was a discussion of his academic progress - in his laid back fashion he would assure me that all was well whatever his teachers had said - or on the one occasion when the totally reliable Blake had mistimed the start of a House cross-country race and had to set off several hundred yards behind the field - he would simply set himself to deal with the situation. I cannot remember the outcome of the race in question but I know that the House won the event in the following year (Blake’s U6) when he and two other Meynell runners were placed in the top four.
I have, in my mind’s eye, a picture of what it means to be an ‘Ellesmerian’. To be well regarded by your friends and the staff. To do your best in the classroom, on the games field and in your activities and so contribute to the efforts of all. To have a rounded personality possessed of confidence but not arrogance. To know what is right and to be prepared to stand up for your beliefs.
Without a doubt Blake was an ‘Ellesmerian’."
from - Sarah Willis, representing friends from Reading University.
"Blake, I stand hear today proud to speak to you about a very special person who will always be one of my greatest friends.
When I was asked to speak about Blake I initially thought how frightened and nervous I would be and what a huge responsibility I had to give him a fitting send off. However Blake always had an amazing way of putting my fears at ease so I decided to imagine Blake was here with me now giving one of his unique and highly amusing presentations that many of you here will remember. Blake always aimed to entertain in these presentations he would include shock statistics, flashing lights, noises and special effects to liven up even the most boring of topics and although I hated giving presentations, when Blake was involved there was never time to get scared as there was never a dull moment.
Blake lived his life by this principle that life was too precious to waste, yes he knew how to relax and did spend endless hours watching TV and surfing the internet for random items but everything that was important to him, his family, his friends, his ambitions and his passions he threw his life and soul into.
Speaking to Blake’s closest friends from Reading there was one common theme evident that they all saw Blake as a loyal and dependable friend who would unselfishly put them first, like the time when Jim persuaded Blake to take him on his walking and camping trip to the Breckon Beacons, as we all know the great outdoors and walking was one Blake most favourite things and their trip started with great success with Blake showing Jim the sights whilst putting the world to rights as they walked and talked. However by the second day Jim’s attention started to waver and despite Blake’s obvious enjoyment he abandoned the walking putting his friend first and found a cinema for Jim where they watched the all time classic “Monsters Inc”.
Blake loved a challenge and an adventure and even cooking at 10 Holmes Road where many of us lived was an experience. Many would stop for a quick boring snack but not Blake he would chop, dice and add chilli until the culinary masterpiece was complete. He loved our traditional Christmas meal at the end of term where the girls would sit back, drink and watch the boys who would cook whilst of course tasting the wine as any responsible hosts should. Blake had it all planned like an army exercise one officer would prepare the vegetables, one to lay the table and one to check the meat and so on, he loved a team effort and despite waiting to for many hours we all sat down at 11pm and enjoyed a lovely meal, silly games and happy days.
Blake was always prepared for every eventuality and even on a summer holiday to Majorca with Andy Blackly, Blake had to be reminded to take off his favourite Leatherman from his trunks when on the beach.
In all the time we spent with Blake he never uttered an unkind or cruel word, in fact he very rarely would be seen without a smile on his face. One of his best qualities was his tolerance and ability to see the greater picture. I would often go to him with great stresses, strains and often tears and Blake’s wise response would be “Ah well Willis it will all be alright” and more often than not his words would make it alright.
I was lucky to see Blake’s deeper side, to the untrained eye Blake was a great laugh and layed back chap. But to his closest friends Blake had a hidden side and often surprised himself with his own emotions. Blake was not always good at showing these emotions but I think if you understood him that didn’t always matter. If he needed a shoulder or someone to chat to I always felt very privileged when he spoke to me.
Beth a very important person in Blake’s life and I visited him in Sandhurst last year and after many discussions at Uni about all of our futures we were both very happy to find Blake loving his army life at Sandhurst, he clearly fitted and relished his time training to be an officer and we were proud to see him living his dream.
We will all miss Blake as he was one of life’s greats, we will miss his green tracksuit bottoms, his crazy dancing, his love of fancy dress, his bad spelling, his immense enthusiasm and passion for life and most of all his friendship!"
from - Major General Andrew Ritchie C.B.E. - Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
OFFICER CADET RICHARD BLAKE HARTLEY
"Blake entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on Sunday 4th January 2004 as Army Number 25110104 Officer Cadet Hartley, Sir! He was no stranger to military life having already spent a considerable amount of time in the Combined Cadet Force at Ellesmere College and as a Junior Under Officer at Oxford University Officer Training Corps whilst at Reading Unviersity. It will therefore not surprise you to hear that he took to Sandhurst like a duck to water. He quickly made friends with the 30 other cadets in13 Platoon Ypres Company and set about making a positive impact amongst his peer group. The first 5 weeks at Sandhurst are particularly challenging for the cadets – and deliberately so. Many of them arrive having been used to working for 4 hours and sleeping for 20. We reverse that cycle. It is a test of commitment. Blake’s family and friends will understand when I say that he took that pressure in his stride. He stood out as a natural leader and always applied lashings of good humour to any situation. Blake’s love of the outdoor life and his ability as a mountaineer were a great advantage here. Throughout his Junior Term he continued to develop a confident and robust style of leadership which contributed to his success in a number of key command tasks. He ended the term well up in the top third of all cadets.
During his first period of leave Blake attended and passed a Mountain Expedition Leaders Course. Climbing and Mountaineering were of course one of Blake’s great passions. He was a talented member of the Academy Climbing and Mountaineering Club and he was awarded full Colours for the outstanding contribution he made to their activities. He was always at the centre of everything that was going on.
Blake’s performance during his second term was no less impressive. Intelligent, loyal and thoroughly committed, he took easily to responsibility and worked tirelessly for others. He developed a strong understanding of the basics of his chosen profession and was a natural leader. He was calm under pressure and utterly reliable. In short he took to his heart the values and the standards for which the British Army is so famous. But he was not entirely a paragon of virtue. Following a Dinner Night in this second term he persuaded his entire platoon to parade on the hallowed ground of the Grand Entrance to Old College for a photograph – they were all stark bollock naked, as we say in the Army. Luckily for him none of the sergeant majors were around at the time. By the end of the second term Blake had firmly established himself as one of the leading cadets in his intake of 250. It was no coincidence that he was selected to lead the fateful expedition to Chamonix.
As the days turned into weeks and then into months our hopes turned to sadness at the loss of such talent and promise. I was struck by the depth of respect, warmth and love of those in our military community who knew him well.
Blake was due to receive his Commission at the Sovereign’s Parade on 10 December last year. It was a day of mixed emotions for those on parade as the pride in their achievement mingled with sadness at Blake’s absence. We remembered Blake by name at the Commissioning Service in the Chapel that morning. I vividly recall the poignancy of that moment of reflection.
But Blake lives on in the hearts and minds of so many people. Those that are here today and those who could not be here. He would have been a most successful officer. His military legacy is to have left his imprint on those who served with him at the Academy. The Sandhurst motto is Serve to Lead. Let that also be his epitaph."
from – 2nd Lt Adam Smith and Lt James Shaw who shared not only Blake’s love of climbing and the mountains, but also a house in Oxford and Chamonix.
These thoughts on Blake are taken from a number of people who new Blake from university and OTC through to his time climbing in Chamonix and living in Oxford.
When Adam and I were thinking of what to speak on we decided to talk about some of the points that made up Blake’s character. One key theme that came out of it was that no two points were the same with Blake. He was a very varied and diverse character.
Blake was a very Independent person. He was always off and doing his own thing and someone that truly was a free spirit (even if he did look like he’d been possessed by spirits when trying to dance!). Blake was most in his element when out walking and climbing with just himself or a few others to rely on.
During his trip to America a few summers ago I thought he showed his independence and free spirit by upping sticks, buying a car out there and then taking himself on a road trip around America without thinking anything of it.
However he probably showed himself to be a bit too independent. September 11th happened and Blake was due to be in New York on that day. Around the world millions of sons and daughters contacted their parents to say they were ok but it was a good 3/4 anxious days later before it even occurred to Blake he should ring up and say he was ok!
He was an immensely loyal person and someone we could all trust and rely on 110%. He was a great person to speak to and seek advice although you could always guarantee the answer would be “Ah well”! Blake was very laid back and very little fazed him.
Such was the loyalty that Blake has always shown it was no surprise that when he did go missing friends dropped what they were doing and rushed from all over the country to Chamonix to help in the search.
In the case of Andrew Blackley and Tom Stevenson they both literally dropped what they were doing and rushed to Chamonix and I think they both arrived in their pyjamas! Worse still the only socks they had were the ones on their feet. Only those that have lived with Tom and Andy will appreciate how awful the smell was a week later!
Blake was a very hard working and diligent character. This was best demonstrated at Sandhurst where again he was in his element. Blake was at the top of his platoon and highly regarded. Having also gone through Sandhurst I know how good you have to be to reach those levels. Despite trying very hard for a year I never got above the middle half.
Blake was never a swot but just thrived by doing things the Blake way. I imagine in command he was very easy to work with and even if he had been shot at I doubt he would have very stressed! Naturally to he took his free spirit to Sandhurst and still found time to run naked through the academy.
Like all things in life we never fully appreciate what we have until it is no longer there. I always new Blake was a good bloke, but I now realise what an awesome, awesome person he was and what a privilege it was to have him as a friend.
Perhaps the biggest attribute to Blake’s character is this here. The reason we are all so sad and feel so much hurt is because we were touched by a great person and had that privilege of knowing him.
With Blake gone a piece of all our hearts has gone with him.
He is sorely, sorely missed, much loved but never forgotten.
Written for a wonderful friend.
James Shaw, 6 August 2005
Hymn – Immortal, Invisible God only Wise
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish; but naught changeth thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
'Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.
‘A Poem from Timbertop’ - read by Phil Matheson, (a friend from Blake’s time as a Gap year student at Timbertop School, Australia.)
The Memory Remains
By Phil Matheson
They say “it’s over now”, but the memory remains.
They say “it’s over now”, but we’re glad he came.
At Timbertop I met the Boy Rich.
A chap of the out doors was Richard Blake.
Keen to explore, and make the most of life,
Carpe Diem could have been his motto.
In the snowy mountains he cut his teeth:
He climbed the hills, he skied the peeks,
He rafted the rivers and ran the valleys.
They say “it’s over now”, but the memory remains.
They say “it’s over now”, but we’re glad he came.
Boy Richard, often the man to take the lead.
And t’was a full life he led, short, but full.
It’d be Blake that would ring to say:
“Get your kit we’re going to the hills.”
Or “Put on your party hats,
it’s beer o’clock and Bundi Bus is here.”
They say “it’s over now”, but the memory remains.
They say “it’s over now”, but we’re glad he came.
A most tolerant and accepting chap.
With a shrug and an ‘Ar well’
He would beat the blues.
A mediator for sure.
With a clam and patient ear
he’d hear out other folks quarrels.
They say “it’s over now”, but the memory remains.
They say “it’s over now”, but we’re glad he came.
Not scared to play the goat was RB.
He’d be in a charity shop Hawaiian,
or on the back of a barge with a flat cap.
Perhaps, in a midnight round of killer kings,
with Shropshire’s biggest grin.
Blake, you’ve gone over the horizon now,
And we miss you here, but we’re glad you came.
Prayers - by the Reverend Robert Payne.
‘The Last Post’ – Played by A Light Infantry Bugler.
THE WORDS TO THE LAST POST
Come home! Come home! The last post is sounding
for you to hear. All good soldiers know very well there
is nothing to fear while they do what is right, and forget
all the worries they have met in their duties through the
year. A soldier cannot always be great, but he can be a
gentleman and he can be a right good pal to his comrades in
his squad. So all you soldiers listen to this – Deal fair by all
and you’ll never be amiss.
Be Brave! Be Just! Be Honest and True Men!
Commendation and Blessing - by the Reverend Robert Payne.
Music - ‘Godspeed’ by the ‘Dixie Chicks.’
(This music was found on a tape in Blake's car.)
Organ played by Jeremy Lund, Director of Music at Prestfelde School (Blake’s Prep School.)
Donations gratefully received will be shared equally between The National Missing Person’s Helpline and St Peter’s Church.
After the service everyone is welcome at Golding Hall for refreshments.
A Life Well-Lived
A life well-lived is a precious gift
of hope and strength and grace
from someone who has made our world
a brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments sweet and sad,
with smiles and sometimes tears
with friendships formed and good times shared
and laughter through the years.
A life well-lived is a legacy
of joy and pride and pleasure,
a loving, lasting memory
our grateful hearts will treasure.
There is a Memorial Tablet to Blake in the church yard which will be dedicated immediately after the service.
Blake’s family would like to thank everyone for their support, kind letters, telephone calls, emails, prayers, and good wishes through the past year, they have been much appreciated.