FRIENDS and neighbours are rallying to support a Chester couple as preparations are made for the funeral of their Royal Marine grandson who was killed in Afghanistan.

The dreadful news of Lance Corporal Ben Whatley’s death was broken to his parents on Christmas Eve while they were staying at his grandparents’ farmhouse home in Barrow.

A Royal Navy family liaison officer called at the home of grandparents Ted and Tessa Wright to tell them Ben, 20, had been shot.

Ben’s mother Teresa and her husband Sam, who live in Norfolk, were staying at her parents’ home in Barrow over the festive period along with their other son, Luke.

The brothers had often stayed with their grandparents during school holidays in the home where their mother had grown up. Mrs Whatley had been a hairdresser in Mouldsworth before marrying and moving to King’s Lynn.

Last autumn Mr Wright celebrated his 80th birthday at The Fourways Inn in Delamere which Ben had attended along with friends and relatives making memories of that day even more precious.

The family have been inundated with cards and messages of sympathy from friends and neighbours.

One said: “This has been terrible news for such a lovely family. We are all devastated.”

Cllr Eleanor Johnson (Con, Barrow) is a long-time friend of Teresa Whatley and her family.

She said: “I met Ben in the late summer at his grandad’s birthday party. It was the first time I had met him. He was a charming gentleman. It’s very sad.”

Lance Corporal Whatley’s funeral takes place at St Mary’s Church, East Raynham, next Friday. His family intend that it should be a celebration of his life.