Oxford

RAF Brize Norton hosts first repatriation

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Media captionCorteges leaving Brize Norton pass through the base's Britannia Gate

About 2,000 people have lined the route of a military repatriation ceremony at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Sgt Barry Weston, from Reading and of Plymouth-based 42 Commando, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

His body is the first to arrive at the £2.8m purpose-built centre near Carterton since repatriations were moved from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

Members of the Royal British Legion lowered their flags as the cortege passed.

Residents of Carterton village and military veterans stood silently and bowed their heads along the roadside en route to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

'Absolutely overwhelmed'

Sgt Weston's wife Joanne and three daughters, Jasmine, Poppy and Rose were joined by family, friends and 20 of his Royal Marine colleagues from 42 Commando.

The procession paused at a new memorial garden where members of Sgt Weston's family laid white and red roses on the hearse.

Sgt Weston, 40, died on a foot patrol in Sukmanda in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province in August.

Steve Radband, family liaison repatriation officer for the Royal British Legion, said the family had been "absolutely overwhelmed" by the numbers of people who had turned out for the repatriation.

Previously repatriations arriving at RAF Lyneham passed through the streets of Wootton Bassett where residents would line the streets.

Corteges leaving Brize Norton pass through the newly named Britannia Gate at the base but will avoid the town centre of Carterton.

Concerns have been raised by soldiers' relatives over the level of support that will be shown at the memorial garden, which is a 15 minute walk from the town centre.

Maj John Thorneloe, whose son Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe was repatriated to RAF Lyneham in 2009, said: "It's one thing for people to turn out in the streets of a town and welcome those coming home, but it's another thing for people to drive into an open space, decide where to park their cars and do it as though it wasn't an involuntary thing."

The bodies of 345 services personnel have passed through Wootton Bassett over the past four years.

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