Family’s ‘total shock’ after veteran dies on remembrance trip to Belgium

The Friends of the Somme Association laid a wreath at the Menin Gate during their visit
The Friends of the Somme Association laid a wreath at the Menin Gate during their visit

The family of a former soldier who died during a trip to Belgium with the Friends of the Somme Association to commemorate the fallen from the First World War have said they are in “total shock”.

Andy Godfrey, a 71-year-old former Royal Ulster Rifles and Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, died after suffering a heart attack while on an annual trip to Belgium and France.

His son, William, said it has been a “terrible ordeal” for the whole family.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, William said: “It’s a total shock for the family. It has been a terrible ordeal.”

He explained why his father travelled every year to pay his respects.

“It was important to him. He was a professional soldier and he did mostly home service in Northern Ireland during the Troubles,” he said.

“He went over to Belgium last week and we got the phone call on Saturday morning that he had died.”

Mr Godfrey, 47, continued: “He only goes away once a year and that’s the only place he would go. He goes over every year to lay a wreath. It won’t really hit us until he comes home.

“He was a good man, if we ever needed him he was always there for us. He would have been a real family man – family was the most important thing to him. He was right and healthy – he was diabetic but that was it.”

The Friends of the Somme Association Mid Antrim Branch, in a statement posted to Facebook, said: “Our love goes to Liz and the entire family circle. Andy you will never be forgotten. You were a true character and a good friend to us all.”

The organisation laid a poppy wreath at the Menin Gate during their trip. A monthly meeting of the Friends of the Somme Association scheduled to take place on Thursday has been cancelled.