Town in silence

John A Silkstone

Mi General
MI.Net Member
Jul 11, 2004
Town pays tribute as bodies of another three soldiers killed in Afghanistan return home

Hundreds lined the streets of Wooton Bassett in Wiltshire in a silent tribute as the bodies of another three soldiers killed in Afghanistan were returned home for the last time.

Veterans salute as the hearses carrying the bodies of Corporal Dean John and Corporal Graeme Stiff go through Wooton Bassett in Wiltshire Photo: PA
Veterans with medals on their chests saluted and teenagers in hoodies stood quietly as the hearses carrying their coffins passed through the town carrying the coffins of Royal engineers Corporal Dean John and Corporal Graeme Stiff, both attached to the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, and Lance Corporal Chris Harkett, of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

"Even the birds fell silent as the coffins passed by," said town councillor Christopher Wannell. "You could hear a pin drop."

Cpl Stiff and Cpl John, both of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) were killed in Helmand province on March 15. They had been travelling to the west of Garmsir when their vehicle was struck by an explosive device.

The repatriation of the men's bodies came the day after another six Nato soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

The Canadian military said that four of its troops died along with an Afghan interpreter in two separate explosions in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar province on Friday.

Another soldier serving under the Nato banner was killed elsewhere in southern Afghanistan on the same day, a Nato spokesman said yesterday. He did not reveal which country the fifth casualty was from, although it is understood not to have been a British soldier.

The latest casualties made Friday one of the bloodiest days yet for the International Security Assistance Force, or Isaf, the 42-nation Nato coalition which has 62,000 soldiers serving in Afghanistan. A total of 71 Isaf soldiers have died this year so far, compared to 294 the year before.

The bodies of the three British soldiers were flown back into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire at noon yesterday. A bugler played the Last Post as their coffins, draped in the Union Flag, were carried off an RAF transporter plane.

After a private service of family members at the base, the hearses travelled under police escort through Wootton Bassett.

The cortege stopped for a minute's silence at the town's war memorial, where regimental banners were lowered and church bells rang in respect.

Cpl Harkett's widow Danielle, 21, was not present, but released a statement in which said she was "honoured and priveliged" to have been his wife.

She said: "You will be in my heart for the rest of my life and I will never forget the time we had together. You are the most special person in my life Chris, and your death does not bring the end to that."

Wootton Bassett town council and local Royal British Legion officials have been organising for crowds to honour the return of dead British troops since they started coming back through RAF Lyneham in 2007.

Cllr Wannell said: "It is terribly sad. Each one of them is someone's husband or wife, son or daughter, boyfriend or girlfriend. It's important we pay our respects to the people who have given their lives for the sake of Queen and country. They went out there to do a job, whether we agree with it or not.

"This town is a beacon to the rest of the country in showing respect and discipline and this will continue for as long as the bodies keep coming through."

RIP Brothers

"This town is a beacon to the rest of the country in showing respect and discipline and this will continue for as long as the bodies keep coming through."

Its about time the whole country followed their example.

R.I.P brave lads, you will never be forgotten
It is well that we remember these men, publicly like they deserve. This not only renders them the individual honor they have earned but also helps to remind the young and those who ignore the obvious, our countries are at war and freedom isn't free.
Semper Fi