Drummer Lee Rigby, Drummer Lee Rigby – the soldier killed close to Woolwich Barracks, in south-east London – was “a bubbly character” and “loving father”, the MoD has said.
The 25-year-old, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, had been in the 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers since 2006.
Neighbours on the Langley Estate, where he grew up, spoke of their “shock” and “disbelief” at his death and talked of a “wonderful lad”.
One resident thought Drummer Rigby had been due to return home soon to see his mother.
Andy Grimshaw, who lives a few doors away from the soldier’s family, said: “I cannot believe it, I know Lee, he knows my daughter.”
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “He had always wanted to be in the Army since he was knee high.”
The Manchester United fan, who was born in Crumpsall, Manchester, had a two-year-old son called Jack.
Sgt Maj Ned Millar said: “He was one of the Battalion’s great characters – always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers.
“He was an excellent drummer and well respected within the Drums platoon. He was easily identified whilst on parade by the huge smile on his face and how proud he was to be a member of the Drums.”
He added: “He would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again. My thoughts are with his family and they will always be part of the Fusilier family. Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.”
Sgt Barry Ward, Drum Major Second Fusiliers, said: “Drummer Rigby was a loving father, with a very bubbly character.”
Neighbours of Lee Rigby’s family spoke of their disbelief at his death
Known as “Riggers” to his friends, he was selected to be a member of the Corps of Drums and was posted to the Second Fusiliers Regiment.
His first posting was as a machine gunner in Cyprus. In 2008 he returned to the UK to Hounslow, West London, where he guarded the Royal Palaces.
In April 2009 he was deployed for the first time to Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he served as a member of the Fire Support Group in Patrol Base Woqab.
On returning from deployment he completed a tour of duty in Germany before taking up a recruiting post in London in 2011, where he also assisted with duties at Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London.
Drummer Rigby married Rebecca Metcalfe in 2007 at St Anne in the Grove, Southowram, when the soldier was based at Catterick Garrison.
Reverend Guy Jamieson, who married the couple, recalled them attending preparation sessions at the vicarage for the military-style wedding.
“My own feelings are primarily for the immediate family of Lee himself, who must be going through an extremely difficult time coming to terms with such a public and such a brutal killing,” he said.
Floral tributes have been left at the barracks with messages of sympathy for the soldier and his family.
The regiment, which is based in Cyprus and London, has served in every major campaign dating back to 1674.