Thousand pay respect to Afghanistan casualties

Thousands of people lined the streets today to pay their respects to eight British soldiers killed during the Army's bloodiest 24 hours in Afghanistan.

As the bodies were flown home, the families of the fallen men, three of whom were teenagers, were at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire to see the coffins, draped in Union flags, carried from a C17 aircraft.

A private ceremony was held at the chapel of rest before a cortege of eight hearses left the base.

A church bell tolled as the cortege drove slowly through the nearby town of Wootton Bassett, with a crowd of thousands standing in tribute.

Many people threw flowers on the hearses as they drove by. Veterans saluted and some in the crowd clapped and even cheered.

Tearful family members, who were also standing in the crowd, comforted each other.

Among the servicemen being repatriated were five soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Rifles who died near Sangin in Helmand province on Friday in two "daisy-chain" explosions.

And The Earl of Wessex, the battalion's Royal Colonel, attended the chapel to pay his respects.

Corporal Jonathan Horne, 28, and Riflemen William Aldridge, James Backhouse and Joseph Murphy, all 18, were rescuing comrades from an earlier blast when a second device detonated.

Rifleman Murphy was carrying Rifleman Daniel Simpson, 20 - who was injured by the first makeshift bomb - when both were killed in the following explosion.

Rifleman Aldridge, from Bromyard, Herefordshire, was attempting to reach casualties from the first blast, despite being wounded himself.

His aunt, Alison Aldridge, was in the crowd today, carrying eight roses in tribute to the men.

Ms Aldridge, 40, from Bristol, said: "It is extremely sad that his life was taken so swiftly, but I take comfort from the fact that he had two very fulfilling years rather than a lifetime of regrets.

"As a boy he was loving and adventurous. He had a loving, caring mother and he got his strength of character from her. He was a family boy and that's what the army is all about.

"His ambition was the SAS - and he would have got there too. He was mentally prepared. He had affection for people and that's what drives ambition.

"It's lovely that so many people are here - young and old. It's amazing how so many young people here understand and respect what's going on."

Also on the flight home was Corporal Lee Scott, 26, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, who died in an explosion on Friday, just north of Nad-e-Ali, during Operation Panther's Claw.

And making up the eight were two men killed in separate incidents on Thursday.

Private John Brackpool, 27, of Prince of Wales' Company, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was shot at Char-e-Anjir near Lashkar Gah while on sentry duty.

Rifleman Daniel Hume, 22, of 4th Battalion The Rifles was killed in an explosion while on a foot patrol, again near Nad-e-Ali.

Some 60 friends of Rifleman Hume had travelled to Wootton from Maidstone and Slough.

Among them was his ex-girlfriend Bianca Bond, 21, from Hampshire, now living in Dubai, who said the continuing war made her "very angry".

Ms Bond said: "I just can't believe he's gone. I'm very proud of the people who have come here and so proud of him.

"I'm going to miss him. I keep expecting him to call or sign in to Facebook. I hope it all stops soon - they should get Gordon Brown to go out there and fight himself. They are not doing anything about it."

Another of his school friends, Natasha Straw, 20, from Maidenhead, said he had never said he lacked equipment and "wouldn't have it any other way".

The procession was the largest to pass through the market town since it became an official repatriation station in 2007.

Veterans and serving soldiers stood alongside shopkeepers, pub landlords, restaurant owners and children.

Mayor of Wootton Bassett Steve Bucknell said: "Every repatriation is a very sad event, whether it is one person or eight.

"What makes it so much sadder is when you see the friends and family of the fallen and it brings it home that these are real people with real lives - someone's son, grandson, brother and father. They are going to leave a hole in many lives.

"The people of Wootton Bassett are fantastic. They never fail to amaze me with their ability to always do the right thing."

The return of the eight bodies comes amid renewed controversy over the resources and manpower committed to Afghanistan.

A total of 15 soldiers were killed in 10 days, bringing the number of UK military fatalities in the country since 2001 to 184 - surpassing the 179 who died in Iraq.

The Prime Minister has insisted it is right to press on with efforts to stop al Qaida using Afghanistan as a base for worldwide terror.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis