Bodies of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan brought home

The bodies of the six soldiers arrived back at RAF Brize Norton

More than 2,000 people have lined the streets of Carterton in Oxfordshire as the bodies of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan arrived back in the UK.

Cpl Jake Hartley, 20, Pte Anthony Frampton, 20, Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19, Pte Daniel Wade, 20, Pte Daniel Wilford, 21, and Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33, were killed on 6 March.

They died when a bomb exploded under their vehicle.

Their bodies were flown to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Sgt Coupe was from 1 Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and was on secondment to 3 Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment to which the other five soldiers belonged.

Memorial garden

Pte Wilford, Pte Frampton and Cpl Hartley came from Huddersfield and Pte Kershaw came from Bradford.

Pte Wade was from Warrington in Cheshire and Sgt Coupe from St Annes in Lancashire.

The six soldiers killed in Helmand The soldiers died when a bomb exploded under their Warrior armoured vehicle

The soldiers were patrolling in a Warrior armoured vehicle when it was hit by a bomb near the border between Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

All six were based at Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire.

Well-wishers and those paying tribute to the six soldiers lined the streets as a convoy of hearses bearing the men's coffins were driven through Carterton.

It paused at a memorial garden near RAF Brize Norton where families and friends of the six soldiers placed dozens of red and white roses and carnations on top of the vehicles.

Fellow soldiers lined the roadside in order of the servicemen's rank, with the lead hearse carrying the body of Sergeant Nigel Coupe.

Eyewitness

Each repatriation is emotionally charged.

Like Royal Wootton Bassett before it, the community of the pretty Cotswold village of Brize Norton have become used to sharing the sombre homecoming of soldiers killed on duty.

But the scale of this loss - the biggest involving British personnel since repatriations were switched to here last year - was matched by the biggest public turnout yet.

The cortège of six cars, each bearing a coffin draped in the union flag, was showered with flowers as it paused briefly at the memorial garden.

Repatriation has become an all too familiar ritual. Yet for some here today, this loss, perhaps because it involved so many, or perhaps because it takes the British death toll in Afghanistan through the 400 mark, seems harder to accept.

Flowers were thrown on to the corteges and crowds applauded as a mark of respect as the hearses drew away en route to the mortuary at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

A party of Royal British Legion standard bearers from various regimental associations were among those paying their respects to the soldiers, as the hearses stopped beside a Union Flag flying at half-mast.

The Yorkshire Regiment asked for flags to be flown at half mast as an act of remembrance.

Flags on Bishopthorpe Palace, the Archbishop of York's residence, were flying at half-mast to honour the soldiers.

A number of other organisations and businesses across Yorkshire also paid tribute.

Paul Schofield, chairman of Leeds-based Union Industries, said flags at its premises were flying at half-mast.

'Close-knit'

Mr Schofield said: "They are prepared to put their lives on the parapet every single day.

"They don't enjoy the safety we have. They are very, very brave."

Lt Col David O'Kelly, regimental secretary of The Yorkshire Regiment, said: "The Yorkshire Regiment is a very close knit family and we're doing all we can to support our families who are most in need at this moment.

"The public response has been very encouraging and hugely supportive.

"What I would love to see is the county getting behind us and for those organisations who normally fly a flag, perhaps to fly it at half-mast as an appropriate act of remembrance for the soldiers being repatriated."

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