HEARTBROKEN family, friends and comrades of a Poole army officer said goodbye to her yesterday after she lost her battle with cancer.
Sandhurst army graduate Capt Naima Houder-Mohamed, who grew up in Canford Heath, died on Saturday after being diagnosed with terminal cancer five months ago. She had spent her final days with her family in Poole.
The 27-year-old Muslim, a former Parkstone Grammar School pupil, was laid to rest in Kinson Cemetery 24 hours after her death in what is believed to be the first UK military funeral for a serving Muslim female officer.
After private blessings at Bournemouth’s Central Mosque, the hearse arrived at the cemetery and Naima’s coffin, draped in a Union Flag and adorned with a poppy wreath, cap and sword, was carried by six pall bearers from the Adjutant General Corps, with which she served.
Imam Majid Yasin said a prayer in Arabic before Military Padre Gary Keith spoke as Naima’s family, including brother Rachid and parents Ben and Saida, looked on.
He said: “As we gather in this place today we do so to honour the life of a courageous and committed, very determined young army officer, Captain Naima Houder Mohamed.
“We do so to give thanks for her full and her active life, to commend her to God’s safe keeping.”
He said Naima was “greatly loved, admired and respected” and was a “cherished and much valued member of the family home, of her community and of the British Army”.
Naima graduated from Sandhurst in 2009 and then served with 22 Engineer Regiment and 1 Royal Anglian.
Regimental Colonel Rob Davie said Naima became a qualified mountain leader in 2006, gaining advanced status in 2009. She ran expeditions in Kenya, Morocco and France. She undertook Nordic skiing and biathlon and did training exercises in Scotland and Poland.
Naima had been set to go to Afghanistan but her illness prevented her from doing so.
Col Davie said: “Naima gathered a wealth of experience as an army officer during her relatively short career.
“She readily sought out new challenges and tackled them with enthusiasm and a steely determination to succeed.
“She worked tirelessly for her people and that reflected the motto of Sandhurst – Serve to Lead.
“Tragically taken long before her time, Naima leaves behind a devoted family and despite being sorely missed by her comrades in the army, we know this is nothing compared to the loss that her family will feel.
“We are both proud and privileged to have served with Naima.”
After Captain Afzal Amin, the Armed Forces Muslim Chairman, recited the opening chapter of the Quran in Arabic and English and read from a letter Naima wrote before her death, her coffin was lowered into the ground before a nine-gun salute was sounded and a bugler played the Last Post.
Naima wrote that she had tried to cope with her illness in a “dignified and fortified way”.
“I tried to deal with this illness the best way possible, I have done everything possible to beat this.”
She added: “For all those who know me, both friends and family, I have lived life to the fullest and made the most of every day, although it was hard towards the end.”
Fighting back tears as he read, Capt Amin finished the letter, in which Naima wrote: “I leave this earth knowing that I meant so much to so many people and I hope you will never forget me.”