(CNN) -- The British soldier slain in a gruesome cleaver attack in London was a well-liked infantryman and machine gunner who served in Afghanistan and Cyprus, and then became a military recruiter and ceremonial drummer outside the royal palaces, the military said Thursday.
Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was part of the Regimental Recruiting Team in London, and as a machine gunner, he was part of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
The Fusiliers, an infantry group, are known for the hackle, or feather plume, in their military headdress.
Rigby had a 2-year-old son, Jack, the UK Ministry of Defense said.
Fellow soldiers described him as having an engaging personality. He joined the army in 2006 and acquired the nickname "Riggers" in his platoon.
"He was a real character within the Second Fusiliers," Lt. Col. Jim Taylor, commanding officer of the 2nd Fusiliers, said in a statement. "Larger than life, he was at the heart of our Corps of Drums. An experienced and talented side drummer and machine gunner, he was a true warrior and served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany and Cyprus."
Rigby also loved soccer's Manchester United, soldiers said.
"He was one of the Battalion's great characters, always smiling and always ready to brighten the mood with his fellow Fusiliers," Warrant Officer Ned Miller of the 2nd Fusiliers said in a statement. "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 would always stop for a chat just to tell me Manchester United would win the league again."
Rigby was born in Crumpsall, Manchester.
After joining the army, his first post was in Cyprus as a machine gunner in Dhekelia, the military said.
In 2008, he was assigned to Hounslow, West London, and became "an integral member of the Corps of Drums throughout the Battalion's time on public duties, the highlight of which was being a part of the Household Division's Beating the Retreat -- a real honour for a line infantry Corps of Drums," the ministry said.
In 2009, he deployed on operations "for the first time," sent to Afghanistan's Helmand province, where he was a member of a fire support group at Patrol Base Woqab.
He then returned to the UK and completed a second tour of public duties. Later, he followed the battalion to Celle, Germany.
In 2011, he became a recruiter at the Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London.
Rigby "was a cheeky and humorous man, always there with a joke to brighten the mood; he was an extremely popular member of the Fire Support Group," said Capt. Alan Williamson, who was Rigby's platoon commander from 2010 to 2011.
Rigby's death attracted worldwide attention because the slaying scene was captured on a cell phone camera.