Tributes have been paid to a ‘larger than life’ war hero who fought in every conflict since the Falklands – and even went AWOL to fight during times of peace.
After dodging bullets through six wars and many tours, South Yorkshire soldier Stephen Marklew died earlier this month of pneumonia, aged 45, after battling cancer for two years.
In the wake of his untimely death, older brother Peter has paid tribute to ‘an absolute legend’ who ‘fought proudly’ to serve and defend his country.
Peter said his brother joined the paratroopers aged 16 after ‘being obsessed’ with wanting to be a soldier since he was a young lad.
He said: “Unfortunately for Stephen, he finished his training after the Falklands had ended and there was nothing for him to do.
“So he went AWOL when he was 17 and joined mercenary army the French Foreign Legion.
“He was gone for months and nobody had a clue where he was. My parents were worried sick.”
Despite passing the training with flying colours, Stephen was not able to enlist with the mercenaries as he was under 18 – and would need parental permission.
So, with tail between legs, he flew home to face the music from his officers – and his parents.
Peter said: “His officers didn’t go too hard on him. The only reason he went AWOL was because he had trained to be a soldier and that’s all he wanted to do.”
After his early indiscretion – put down to sheer eagerness – Stephen went on to have a highly decorated military career.
He fought in the first Gulf war, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, former Yugoslavia, the second Gulf war and Afghanistan. He also did tours in Canada, Africa and the North Pole.
During his 13-year career, Stephen was awarded seven medals.
Peter said: “I never met anybody like Stephen. He was larger than life, that’s for sure. He was always up for a laugh and a joke.
“But he was very determined. When he wanted something he would work to make sure he got it.”
Stephen, who was unmarried, died at his home in Rotherham on April 3.
His funeral was held at St Bernard’s Church, in the town, yesterday.
Peter said hundreds of people turned out for the service.
He said: “It was a fitting tribute to a larger than life character.
“Lots of his former colleagues attended, his friends, even some of his teachers attended.”
He added: “Stephen was an amazing man. It’s such a shame to lose him so young, but I was touched by how many people turned up and by all the kind words and messages.”