CHRIS Wannell's beloved vintage fire engine Martha carried him on his final shout as the people of Royal Wootton Bassett lined the route to say goodbye.

The former firefighter and councillor was escorted by colleagues from all over North Wiltshire on his way to St Bartholomew's Church for a funeral service.

His family were worried that because of the pandemic they wouldn't be able to give him the send off he deserved.

GALLERY: Mourners line the streets for former fireman and mayor

But while Covid restrictions meant only 30 people were allowed inside the church, family, councillors and many of his friends, including mayor Nic Hughes and wife Sue, watched as Martha led a cortege of vintage vehicles along the high street.

His daughter Heather said: “The procession was incredible, people were telling me how spectacular it was. I think my dad would have been proud of the send-off, it was truly heart-warming.

"It was so fitting that he had his last journey on Martha, he would have been over the moon with that, it’s exactly what he wanted.”

The former mayor, who was 79, raised more than £100,000 for The Fire Fighters Charity over the years with the help of the 1943 appliance he bought in 1975 and restored. His efforts earned him a lifetime achievement award in 2018.

Cricklade watch manager Pete Price, organised the cortege and drove Martha. He and Chris met and became friends through the fundraising.

“What a wonderful person he was, you could not ask for a more generous, jovial and loving person ever," said Pete.

"I was really pleased to see so many people at the service while following restrictions. It was truly wonderful to see so many people pay their respects for a truly outstanding gentleman.”

Malmesbury watch manager Chris Harvey added: "He would have thought it fantastic I am sure. Seeing all the trucks and the people. It was an absolute honour to have been involved for such a great man."

Funfair operator George Scarrott said: “My dad met Chris when working together on the Carnival Committee in the 70s and have been friends ever since. He was a very close family friend and he’s done so much for the town. Chris chose the town’s motto 'We honour those we serve' and that’s his lasting legacy. The funeral was the perfect service for him."

The service, streamed online and watched by around 100 people, was conducted by Rev Jane Curtis and Canon Thomas Woodhouse, chaplain to the British Fire Services Association and former vicar of Wootton Bassett.

The Fireman’s Prayer was read and MP James Gray, a family friend, fought back tears as he read the poem Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier.

Chris joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in the 1960s and joined the retained crew when he moved to Bassett with wife Audrey. He became a founder member of the carnival committee in 1971, and spent 40 years as a local councillor, serving as the town’s mayor twice.

He finished his firefighting career in 1996 as the officer in charge of the town's fire station.

Heather said: “He would do anything for anyone, it didn’t matter your rank or profession, he would treat everyone the same, with the greatest respect.

"People have been absolutely fantastic, we’ve received about 600 tribute cards, it’s really nice because we can reflect on those.

She said: “I was worried we wouldn’t be able to give him a dignified send-off because of the current situation but we managed to achieve that.

Dad always liked to challenge us and this was the challenge of a lifetime. My mum wanted to thank everyone who has contributed to dad’s Just Giving page and for the lovely messages people have sent.”

Pictures taken by the Adver's photographer Dave Cox show's his honourable send-off.