Brize Norton military repatriation crowds 'dwindling'

Two hearses drive past a large crowd in Carterton
Image caption Large crowds have turned out in Carterton but numbers have dwindled lately, it has been claimed

The number of people who line the streets to see the repatriation of British soldiers killed overseas has dwindled, it has been claimed.

Steve Blundell, of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch, said fewer people are turning out at Carterton - near RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

He voiced his concern after the repatriation of Sapper Richard Walker, which took place last month.

Carterton's mayor said turnout varies based on a variety of factors.

Mr Blundell, who has been to more than 100 repatriations, said local dignitaries "valiantly turn up every time" for the processions through Carterton.

But he said the total number of people attending had dwindled.

Family impact

"It saddens me because I feel that the family, although they're not going to know who's who there, they're going to know that the last time they saw a repatriation there was 500 people stood in the street," he said.

"They come back for their son or their husband and there's 120."

Adrian Coomber, mayor of Carterton, said numbers vary based on how far away a soldier's regiment is based and how many ceremonies take place in a single day.

"I wouldn't say it's steadily dwindled since the beginning of repatriations in Oxfordshire," he said.

He added that the local community's commitment is "unwavering and enduring".

Repatriations were switched from Brize Norton to RAF Lyneham in 2007, meaning public ceremonies were held at nearby Wootton Bassett.

The Wiltshire town was renamed Royal Wootton Bassett in 2011 in recognition of the respect it gave to lost military personnel and their families.

The flights returned to RAF Brize Norton in 2011 when it was announced that RAF Lyneham would close.

The Royal British Legion Riders Branch is a motorcycle club for former armed forces personnel.

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