FOR more than 30 years they struggled to understand their father’s execution at the hands of terrorists.
Sgt William “Paddy” Edgar’s family had always believed he had gone, off duty, to Northern Ireland to visit his sister and had never served in his home country during the troubles of the 1970s.
The IRA, however, tell a different story of why they left the 34-year-old dad with three bullets in his head, slumped against a cemetery wall. They claim he was in fact a spy.
Since his death on April 15, 1977, the truth has never been established despite determined attempts by Sgt Edgar’s grieving widow Pam to unearth the facts before she died 12 years ago.
However, tomorrow Sgt Edgar’s sons Paul and Steven are hoping to finally take a step towards closure of the murder of their father when his death in service is honoured by royalty.
The brothers will be presented with the Elizabeth Cross by Princess Anne during a ceremony to mark the homecoming of troops from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment.
The cross is a new award introduced by the Queen for the families of armed forces personnel killed in action or terrorism.
Sgt Edgar spent more than 13 years with the Marchwood-based regiment, then known as 17 Port Training Regiment, having trained as a seaman navigator.
His son Paul told the Daily Echo: “Over the 30 years I don’t think there is a day that he has not been in my thoughts. It doesn’t go away, but you would like to have some sort of closure.
“My dad was only 34 when he died. He never got to see us grow up or meet my children. I don’t really know why it happened and despite my mum going to the inquest she was none the wiser.
“If he had died in an accident it would have been easier to accept, but this was far from a normal set of circumstances, it was totally unexpected.”
Paul remembers his father travelling the world as part of his Army service and, poignantly, the day he left, never to return.
“I remember the last thing he told me was ‘I will see you again but I’m not sure when that will be’.”
“Those words have played on all our minds. We tried to shut them out, but mum was always looking for answers.
She died before she got them.”
Army officials delivered the news of Sgt Edgar’s death to Pam, who was at Ashurst Hospital where she worked as a nurse. She returned to their house in Cooper Road, Ashurst, and broke the news to Paul and Steven, who were aged 15 and 13 at the time.
Paul, who lives in Totton and now works for Hampshire police, said: “It was just numbing, surreal. I remember thinking is this really happening?”
Now, 32 years later, the pair may not understand what happened to their dad, but they have learned to cope.
“For both of us there has always been the element of unanswered questions.
We have never really come to terms with it, but have got older and learned to cope by remembering our dad for who he was and not what happened.
“I thought long and hard about applying for the Elizabeth Cross, knowing it would open old wounds, but in the end I knew that had my mum still been alive she would have done it.
“My main reason for applying for it was because my dad was an honourable man who loved the Army and believed in Queen and country. I’m doing it for his honour, to recognise that he died in service, making the ultimate sacrifice.
“We will be honoured and proud to accept it. For us it is recognition of the very events of the day he died. As a family we will treasure it and maybe it will help us to find closure.”
"He has been executed"
HIS murder made the headlines but the story varied depending on which country you lived in.
The Daily Echo told of a Hampshire soldier shot dead in a cold-blooded killing by the IRA.
Sgt Paddy Edgar had been in Londonderry visiting his sister to plan a family holiday.
He had not been on duty, despite being a serving member of the Army.
His sister, who lived in Maple Street, Londonderry, was the last person to see Paddy alive at about 1.30pm on Friday, April 15, 1977. Hours later he was dead.
An IRA terrorist made the phone call to Samaritans at 7.12pm that day, to report the body of a man lying beside the workmen’s hut in the city cemetery.
He chillingly followed with the words “he has been executed”.
Later reports in Northern Ireland papers described Sgt Edgar, who had been dressed in lilac trousers, a royal blue anorak and a striped shirt, as a spy.
IRA chiefs told how they had had surveillance on Sgt Edgar for some time, claiming he was an “intelligence agent investigating republican activities”.
They told newspapers how the British Army were in denial, and that he was really “a British agent with local connections whose mission failed”.