Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The eight British soldiers who were killed in a 24 hour period in Afghanistan last week were repatriated to the UK today.
The soldiers' bodies were flown in an RAF C-17 Globemaster plane into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire where their wives, girlfriends and families were waiting.
Prince Edward who is the Royal Colonel of 2nd Battalion The Rifles and the Countess of Wessex, the Royal Colonel of 5th Battallion The Rifles were also in attendance.
The C-17 Globemaster conducted a flypast before landing and the coffins of the eight soldiers were then driven through the nearby town of Wooton Bassett where members of the public and veterans lined the streets to pay tribute.
Five of the soldiers killed last week were from 2 Rifles. They were Corporal Jonathan Horne, Rifleman William Aldridge, Rifleman James Backhouse, Rifleman Joseph Murphy and Rifleman Daniel Simpson. They were killed in action near Forward Operating Base Wishtan in Sangin, Helmand province on Friday 10 July 2009.
On the same day in a separate incident Corporal Lee Scott of The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was killed while taking part in Operation Panther's Claw, just north of Nad-e Ali.
On Thursday 9 July, Private John Brackpool of Prince of Wales's Company attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was killed whilst on operations near Char-e-Anjir, just outside Lashkar Gah and Rifleman Daniel Hume of 4th Battalion The Rifles, was killed in a contact explosion whilst on a foot patrol near Nad e-Ali.
Prior to the soldiers' bodies being flown back to the UK a private ceremony was held at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan which was attended by Head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt. Speaking to the media afterwards he said:
"It was very important for me to be there given that I'm in the country at the present moment. We've taken a lot of casualties in recent times and I was very keen to be there at that ramp ceremony and stand beside, shoulder to shoulder, the representatives of our people, to watch those who've lost their lives being returned back to the United Kingdom, and I think to show some solidarity with our people that, yeah, I'm the head of the army and I'm there and I care and it's really important that I'm there.
"High number of deaths inevitably makes you question what we're doing, how we're doing it. The conclusion one has to reach is, go right back to basics on this.
"This mission is really important. As I sometimes find myself, things are much clearer if you flip the coin and look at the other side and ask yourself the question: what if we were to pull out unilaterally, what if we were to just come out of this mission?
"Frankly, the consequences of that are appalling. So we will succeed, we must succeed. We've got to think through the way that we operate, the resources we've got, the numbers we've got and all that kind of stuff - and we can talk about that another time - but to make sure that we're giving ourselves the absolute best chance of succeeding, and part of that is… would then be to minimise our casualties."