Michael Moffat died in hospital in northern Germany on January 22 aged 57 following a series of health issues that had left him wheelchair-bound. He was estranged from his family and living on state benefits at the time.
Mr Moffat served with 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards – nickname The Skins – from 1975 to 1992 and was based in Osnabrück, Tidworth and lastly in Paderborn.
The twice divorced father of two was a proud ex-sergeant who lived alone in the village of Heede and declined any help offered him.
When friend and former comrade Steve Sobers heard that Mr Moffat had died suddenly and was to be given an unmarked grave, he contacted the regimental family through Facebook to raise cash for a cremation, stone and an interment ceremony.
“The Papenburg Ordnungsamt promised me €2,000 towards the burial but I needed an extra €600 for a simple marked grave and once I started asking for money, I received about 80 emails,” said Steve, who works as a transport manager.
“Some 36 hours later I had received almost €3,000 and had to call a stop.”
Donations ranged from £5 to £135 and the excess money will be given to the regimental HQ to be put towards a worthy cause.
“With the donations it was possible to give Mick a proper send-off and for him to have a proper grave with a stone and plaque,” added Steve.
The plaque is inscribed with his Service number, rank, name and regiment and the words ‘Fare Thee Well’, taken from The Skins’ quick march.
On Saturday, February 18, draped in the regimental flag, the urn containing Michael Moffat’s ashes was buried in front of more than a dozen mourners in Aschendorf Cemetery. A poppy wreath was sent by The Royal British Legion.
Steve, who was a corporal in The Skins and now lives in Rheine, said: “A pauper’s grave would have meant an unmarked grave – it’s the cheapest way. No soldier, no matter how good or bad, deserves that. Mick was a good guy and a hard grafter.”
Steve added: “Mick wasn’t very religious and didn’t leave any instructions about his funeral. But from things he’d said to me, I figured he wanted to be cremated.”
The support network for veterans can never be too good, especially in Germany where many Britons have settled after Service life, according to Steve.
“People do come out of the Army and some do end up having problems whether it be private or health problems,” Steve said.
“From age of 16 in 1975 up to 1992, the Army was Mick’s family. Mick loved it, and I think he regretted leaving early and had trouble settling down.
After a series of jobs in civvy street, including working as head of Security for the Siemens Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Mr Moffat experienced some personal setbacks, including breaking a hip in a fall.
Steve said: “Once Mick hurt himself and ended up in a wheelchair, it meant he couldn’t keep his pet dog. After that he just seemed to give up on life.
“He stopped taking his medication and wasn’t eating properly, weighing 47kg near the end. On January 5 he posted on Facebook that he was in hospital and I called him up to get a shopping list but I couldn’t make contact with him.
“I was worried about him but he lived 120km away. He didn’t want to move to my area where there’s a large British contingent. He wanted to stay in his flat within his own four walls.
“He didn’t talk much about his family and refused the help of the Royal British Legion and Army social services. He received Hartz IV benefits and then lived on a disability pension.”
After being unable to contact Mr Moffat for more than a week, Steve and his wife made enquiries and were eventually informed by the German police that he had died in hospital.
When trying to get help for Mr Moffat, Steve said finding out what services are available to ex-military members living in Germany was a challenge.
He said: “Once over here and you’re out of the Army and your regiment has left Germany, you’re on your own. There’s little support information for vets in Germany, and if you don’t know where to look, you’re up the creek.
“There are many British veterans living in Germany who are not in contact with each other, but there are people and services here that will provide help when needed – you just have to ask.
“Soldiers and vets should look out for each other no matter what unit you were with.”
The Skins amalgamated with the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in 1992 to form the Royal Dragoon Guards.
Information for veterans is available at BFGnet at https://bfgnet.de
Veterans can also receive support from the Royal British Legion in Germany at http://branches.britishlegion.org.uk/branches/rheindahlen/