GRIEF-STRICKEN family and friends have paid tribute to 11-year-old Harry Mills who died from meningitis last Thursday.

Almost 1,000 mourners attended his funeral yesterday. Some of them were dressed in sports strips - as requested by Harry's parents.

The church was so packed that many people had to stand outside All Saints' Church, Marlow, and listen to the service which was broadcast to them on speakers.

Harry, from Institute Road in Marlow, was found unconscious in his bedroom by his father, Richard, last Thursday and was taken by ambulance to Wycombe Hospital.

He had been playing football for his school, John Hampden, two days earlier, but felt unwell on the Wednesday.

After being transferred to Oxford's John Radcliffe, the talented young football and rugby player later died.

It is believed that Harry, a Year Seven pupil at the school in Marlow Hill, High Wycombe, had no immunity to the disease - which is very rare.

His ability and sportsmanship had even earned him a place on the talented and gifted register at the school.

Dad Richard, 51, said this week: "He was loved by everyone who met him, I think people will remember him for his smile and for his love.

"He loved people and liked to be surrounded by friends."

Organisers at Holy Trinity Junior Football Club cancelled their league match last Saturday as a mark of respect to their former team-mate and a minute's silence in Harry's memory was held at other games.

Almost 1,000 people attended Harry's funeral at All Saints Church, in Marlow, yesterday, writes Lucinda Adam.

With people standing in every spare space around the pews, others gathered in the churchyard to hear the service broadcast over speakers.

His school friends and team-mates dressed in sports strips as requested by his parents.

Harry's father Richard began the service with an upbeat tribute to his "rascal" son and shared anecdotes of his life.

He said: "Harry has shone a light across the devastation his loss has created, through the love that he had for everyone and the love so many people have expressed to us, he has made the pain a little easier.

"Love and friendship were his hallmarks, the spirit of Harry is with us all."

Speaking about her brother, sister Marie said: "I have an enormous amount of love, warmth and pride for my brother Harry. He has had a huge impact on my life and will for the rest of my life.

"He filled my life with so many wonderful memories, he lived life to the full."

She then read a poem written by Harry called "This is the sport for me".

His other sister, Jenny, described her brother's competitive spirit and recalled them teasing each other while growing up.

His brother George spoke of his passion for fun and said: "I will never understand why we can't grow up and grow old together and share our own families.

"Harry has taught me the value of life, the worth of every day and how precious life is."

The congregation sang traditional hymns, including Jerusalem.

Russell Barr, head of the lower school at John Hampden Grammar, accompanied by deputy head Philip Wayne, played Ave Maria on the trumpet.

Roy Carlisle, of Marlow Rugby Club, paid tribute to Harry as a sportsman. He said: "Words don't do him justice, pictures illustrated what was so brilliant about his sporting ability.

"Kids here have pictures of Harry all over their walls, he's always the one in the middle grinning and holding the cup."

Reverend Nicholas Moloney, who baptised Harry as a baby, said in his address: "Everyone should learn from Harry's example as a team player."

Tony Harjette led three cheers for Harry as the service ended to the sound of Nessun Dorma.

A hundred balloons were released by the river as his coffin and family drove across Marlow bridge to a private burial service at Bisham Church.