Fire at Royal Wootton Bassett Cross Keys pub

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Media captionThe fire was put out before it spread to neighbouring properties

A fire has destroyed part of a pub in Royal Wootton Bassett where bereaved families gathered for the repatriation of fallen servicemen and women.

The roof of the Cross Keys pub in Wiltshire caught fire just before 16:00 BST on Sunday.

About 50 firefighters attended the pub on the High Street. Investigations are continuing into how the fire started.

The pub, which is thought to be the town's oldest, was closed for refurbishment and no-one was injured.

Jan McClure, who lives behind the High Street, said: "It's a very old pub and was really the focus point for the families during the repatriation services.

"It's really been damaged seriously. It's just charred, blackened, timber left now.

"I heard the noises first, tremendous crackling and popping and banging, almost like fireworks, and then I heard the sirens.

"I looked out the back of the house and there were these huge plumes of grey smoke rising up into the air."

'Extremely difficult fire'

The people of Royal Wootton Bassett started honouring the returning dead after a spontaneous gesture of respect by the mayor in 2007.

In the following years - until 2011 when the repatriation flights moved from RAF Lyneham to Brize Norton in Carterton - the ceremonies grew in size and saw thousands of people lining the High Street.

The Cross Keys pub became somewhere for the families to retreat to, away from the spotlight.

It was due to reopen to the public in early August following the refurbishment.

Councillor Chris Wannell used to be a firefighter in the town and attended many of the repatriations.

"There's a lot of memories for a lot of people here, some happy memories and some sad memories," he said.

"It's an iconic building on our High Street. It's a Grade II listed building and the oldest coach house in the town and I trust that it will be restored to its former glory."

Andy Hargreaves, from Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It was an extremely difficult fire on what was possibly the hottest fire fighting day of the year."

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