When James Webster started at King's College, he really missed home.

But those initial nerves, after he was raised and home-schooled in Thames Valley, were soon overcome.

"He not only survived but he started to thrive," said family friend Sally Poulgrain.

And yesterday that showed, as hundreds of students from the college and other schools gathered to farewell their 16-year-old mate "Webby", who died after binge-drinking vodka at the weekend.

The death has reignited the issue of youth drinking, with some pushing for the legal age to be raised.

Headmaster Bradley Fenner said: "I think the sad thing is this will probably be the best educational experience they [other students] can have."

When James' housemaster, Daryl Williams, stood at the front of the chapel, he did so with regret.

"When housemaster Graeme Syms delivered his speech for William Thode two months ago, I admired his strength and thought, 'I hope I never have to do that', but I'm here today," he said.

William was a King's boarder who died in his sleep of a rare viral infection of the heart in February.

College chaplain Warner Wilder told mourners: "The reality is that we shouldn't be here, and what a tragedy this has been for us all, especially the family.

"I just pray that you think very carefully here. I'm appealing especially to you young friends. Think very carefully about young James' death and hopefully his death won't be completely and utterly wasted."

In his 16 years of life, James had certainly made a mark - always game to give anything a go.

In a photo montage played before the funeral, his face grinned out at the mourners, as he did everything from scuba diving, fishing and tramping to gymnastics and the Kiwi Kids Tryathlon.

Mr Williams recalled one inter-house competition where St John's House was flagging and James' gymnastics talents were called upon.

"So in the middle, Webby started doing cartwheels and flic flacs across the stage," he said.

James' friendship with school archivist John Bean was well known, with the teenager once referring to him as his best friend.

"Please note that I wasn't his best friend, he was mine," said Mr Bean, to laughter from those gathered.

The pair spent a lot of time together after James volunteered to help.

"He offered to work, but never really did anything," Mr Williams said with a smile.

"He would just wander around marvelling at the memorabilia and bludging Moro bars."

When Mrs Poulgrain told James' life story - chapter by chapter as written by parents Charles and Penny - she spoke of his close bond with his sister, Emily.

Earlier in the service that was clear as an emotional Emily sang Hallelujah, accompanied by friend Andrea Kapeteni.

Afterwards, the 60 or 70 boarders of St John's House released blue and white balloons into the air, with personal messages penned on the side.

They then did the house haka, which had been resurrected and practised for three days, in James' honour.