RAF Brize Norton ceremony marks Lyneham transfer

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Media caption,

After four years, the ceremonies are returning to RAF Brize Norton.

A ceremony has been held marking the relocation of UK military repatriations to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Repatriations previously went through RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, where residents of the nearby town of Wootton Bassett would line the streets.

Future corteges will now leave a new £2.8m repatriation centre at Brize Norton, near the town of Carterton, where a memorial garden has been built.

David Cameron led tributes to the armed forces who "made our country great".

'No greater privilege'

Speaking at the ceremony, the prime minister said: "My job comes with a huge number of great privileges and a lot of interesting people to meet.

"But there is no greater privilege than meeting those who serve our country.

"I cannot stress enough the sacrifices they make for us and we cannot thank them enough for what they do.

"And we cannot say enough how proud we are of them and all that they do for our country."

Mr Cameron's comments came as hundreds of Army and RAF personnel learned they were being sacked in the first wave of defence redundancies.

Image caption,
Hundreds of people paid their respects at the repatriation of Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe

Addressing the gathered crowd, the chairman of Oxfordshire County Council Patrick Greene welcomed those who had travelled from Wootton Bassett.

He said: "The way your town has, over the last few years, come rain or shine, led the respect of the public for our fallen heroes has been an example to us all."

A union flag, which was lowered for the final time at a ceremony on Wednesday in Wootton Bassett, was handed over by the mayor of the town, Councillor Paul Heaphy.

He presented it to the chairman of Brize Norton Parish Council, Councillor Keith Glazier, and the deputy mayor of Carterton, Councillor Adrian Coomber.

The flag was then raised in the memorial garden in Norton Way, where a dedication ceremony which began at 10:30 BST was led by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard.

'Got me through'

The memorial garden is intended to become a focal point for tributes to fallen armed services personnel.

Corteges leaving the purpose-built repatriation centre will pass through the newly named Britannia Gate at the base but will avoid the town centre of Carterton.

Maj John Thorneloe, whose son Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe was repatriated to RAF Lyneham and his coffin driven through Wootton Bassett in 2009, said: "If it has to be Brize Norton then everything should be done to make certain that Wootton Bassett is replicated as much as can be.

"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."

Heather Wood, whose husband Warrant Officer Class 2 Charlie Wood, 34, was killed in Afghanistan on 28 December, said: "I hope in time the same support is shown from the people of Carterton.

"That got me through that day, seeing the people come out of their shops and houses to come and show their support to my husband who served this country."

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

The new repatriation centre in Oxfordshire is expected to be used for the first time when the body of a Royal Marine who was killed on Tuesday is flown home from Afghanistan.

Father-of-three Sgt Barry Weston, 40, of 42 Commando, died on a foot patrol in Sukmanda in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.

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