Ten servicemen killed in crash are honoured in 'homecoming'

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The Independent Online

The 10 British servicemen who lost their lives when their Hercules came down north of Baghdad on 30 January - Iraqi election day - made their final trip home yesterday.

The 10 British servicemen who lost their lives when their Hercules came down north of Baghdad on 30 January - Iraqi election day - made their final trip home yesterday.

With their families waiting below, the C-17 Globemaster carrying their bodies performed a fly-by before touching down at RAF Lyneham.

In what was described by Wing Cdr Jules Eaton as a "homecoming, not a memorial service", the bodies of the nine RAF servicemen and one soldier returned to Wiltshire. During the hour-long ceremony, the coffins, draped with Union flags, were off-loaded and placed in hearses to salutes led by Warrant Officer John Duff.

To the sound of RAF bands, the hearses were driven slowly away from their families. The Princess Royal and the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, were also in attendance.

The MoD has yet to reveal whether initial investigations support claims by insurgents that they downed the aircraft.

First to be taken out was Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, of the Royal Signals. After him came Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39. He was followed by members of 47 Squadron, based at Lyneham - Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, 35, an Australian; Flt Lt David Stead, 35; Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25; M Eng Gary Nicholson, 42; and Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34. From the Engineering Wing were Ch Tech Richard Brown, 40; Sgt Robert O'Connor, 38; and Cpl David Williams, 37.

Wing Cdr Trevor Field said: "They were helping bring justice and freedom to Iraq ... through a very difficult occupation."

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