England

Bodies of servicemen killed in Afghanistan return to UK

The bodies of seven British servicemen killed in Afghanistan have been returned to the UK.

L/Cpl David Ramsden, Colour Sgt Martyn Horton, Pte Alex Isaac and Pte Douglas Halliday died when their vehicle fell into a canal in the Helmand province.

And Sgt Steven Darbyshire, L/Cpl Michael Taylor and Marine Paul Warren, all of 40 Commando Royal Marines, were killed by enemy action last week.

The bodies were repatriated at RAF in Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Image caption The commanding officer of 40 Commando said they would prevail

A private ceremony was held at the base before the cortege passed through the nearby town of Wootton Bassett.

Thousands of mourners - soldiers, shopkeepers and well-wishers - lined the high street to pay their respects to the fallen men.

Family members placed flowers on top of the hearses as they paused for a minute's silence next to the town's war memorial, which was covered with more floral tributes.

With the death of a bomb disposal expert announced on Monday, a total of 20 servicemen have now died in June.

Image caption The soldiers were travelling to help at a nearby checkpoint when they died

L/Cpl Ramsden, 26, from Leeds, Col Sgt Horton, 34, from Runcorn, Cheshire, Pte Isaac, 20, from the Wirral, Pte Halliday, 20, from Wallasey, Merseyside, and Sgt Darbyshire, 35, from Wigan, were all killed on 23 June.

L/Cpl Taylor, 30, from Rhyl, died on 22 June, and Marine Warren, who lived in Leyland, Lancashire, was fatally injured on 21 June.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, commanding officer of Somerset-based 40 Commando, said: "It has been an immensely hard week for 40 Commando, and though we mark the loss of three irreplaceable men, we will not break stride.

"We owe it to the sacrifice these brave marines have made to remain entirely focused on our mission; to protect the people of Sangin in partnership with the Afghan army - and we shall.

'Making progress'

"The Taliban cannot win as they offer only violence and intimidation, and the people of Sangin know it. Even in the most pro-Taliban of areas there is only 20% support for their cause.

"It is slow, hard and often painful but we are making progress here. There are well over twice as many shops in the Sangin bazaar than this time last year and there is irreversible momentum being achieved in the areas of governance and development.

Most recent UK fatalities

Total deaths 2011: 32

Updated: Dec 18 2011

"40 Commando remain absolutely resolute. To be morose, to be introspective, and to doubt is to give ground to our enemy.

"If we are anything other than ruthless in our pursuit we will lose. We will prevail in Sangin."

Lieutenant Colonel Andy Hadfield, commanding officer of 1 Mercian, said: "Without doubt this has been a difficult week in Afghanistan, with a number of men losing their lives. But the soldier does not have the freedom to choose where he is sent and what he must do when he gets there.

"He does however have the freedom to choose to do the right thing and to do it to the very best of his ability, and sometimes this requires that he make the ultimate sacrifice.

"With the obvious exception of their loved ones at home, no-one feels the pain of the losses in Afghanistan more than the servicemen and women out here.

"I read a lot in the media that questions whether the sacrifice is worth it, and whether anything is being achieved through our efforts. The answer is overwhelmingly yes."

He said: "We mourn the loss of our most recent dead, the four men who died assisting the Gereshk City Police, but we know that their efforts were improving the police in preparation for longer term stability and we're making that city of 80,000 people safer.

"The rest of the team who are left are focused on continuing their work, and have demanded a replacement vehicle and crew to enable them to get out on the ground again."

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