They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them

We will remember them

Repatriation

The leviathan of the sky does land
In England's green and pleasant land.
Its cargo more precious than gold
The body of a hero, bold.
Once the giant's engines stopped
The cargo ramp is gently dropped
Carried by six on shoulders true
The hero is saluted by the crew.
The coffin draped in Union Jack
Is slowly carried out the back.
Out of the dark and into light
Slowly down the ramp and to the right.
The six approach the hearse all black
And place the hero gently in the back.
The six then turn and march away
Their duty has been done this day.
Politicians usually have much to say
No sign of them near here this day.
They hide away and out of danger,
Much easier if the hero is a stranger.
The hearse with its precious load
Moves slowly out onto the road.
The floral tributes line the route
While comrades snap a smart salute.
At the edge of a Wiltshire town
The cortege slows its pace right down.
The streets are packed, many deep,
Some throw flowers, most just weep.
The crowd have come to say farewell,
The church bell rings a low death knell.
Regimental standards are lowered down
As the hero passed through the town.
The cortege stops and silence reigns
The townsfolk feel the family's pain.
The nations' flag lowered to half mast
Our brave hero is home at last.

 

FINAL JOURNEY

 

Through the streets of Wootton Bassett

The soldiers' journey ends

This Christmas they'll be sadly missed

By families and friends

 

Our thoughts are with their loved ones

In this their time of grief

We celebrate their bravery

Alas their lives were brief

They died for Queen and country

Like many gone before

In two world wars and conflicts

Fought out on foreign shore

 

We join their grieving parents

Their wives and children too

We close our eyes in silent prayer

Then weep as mourners do

God bless all those heroes

Who fought on foreign land

     &n And rest assured those left behind

They sit at God's right hand

The debt we owe to all those men

We can never repay

So rest in peace, you heroes

We pray for you each day

 

'Tommy' by Rudyard Kipling

 

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06 January 2011
 
The first repatriation ceremony of 2011 took place today with the funeral cortege passing, once again, through Wootton Bassett.  Hundreds of people gathered to pay their respect to Warrant Officer Class 2 Charles Henry Wood, 23 Pioneer Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, who was killed by an explosion while he was conducting a road clearance operation in the Lashkar Gar district of Helmand province on the 28th December 2010.  As the town fell silent, except for the tolling of the lone church bell, the 13 Association Standards on parade were lowered and dozens of Serving colleagues, both in uniform and civilian attire, of Warrant Officer Wood, stood to pay their respects as the immediate family and friends placed flowers on the hearse, carrying the Union Flag draped coffin, when it halted during the minutes silence at the War Memorial.  Representing the RAFPA at Wootton Bassett today were Mike Archer, Ivan Carey, Brian Flinn, Kim Hassall and Jack & Vida Sharp.  Our members at the John Radcliffe Hospital were Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Bryan Simmonds and Bob Strachen (LHC Branch Standard).  Unfortunately we will be back again next week to pay our respects to another soldier so tragically killed in Afghanistan.
 
Brian Flinn
 
11 January 2011
 
Once again we gathered in Wootton Bassett to pay our respects at the second repatriation ceremony to be held within a week.  On this occasion we were honouring Private Joseva Saqanagonedau Vatubua, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who was killed in an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province on the 1st January.  As dusk descended on the town, the now familiar lone church bell's toll brought those gathered to a respectful silence. As the hearse bearing the coffin of Private Vatubua approached the War Memorial, the 11 Association Standards were lowered and everyone lining the roadside paid respects in their own particular way.  Whether it was due to the growing darkness or the reflected lighting from the shops, the minutes silence seemed to be more intense and somewhat more poignant than usual.  After the family and friends of Private Vatubua had said their farewells, the funeral cortège departed en-route for Oxford.  Our representatives at Wootton Bassett today were Mike Archer, Brian Flinn, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie and Jack & Vida Sharp.  Representing the RAFPA in Oxford were Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Pat Plumridge, Bryan Simmonds and Bob Strachan (LHC Branch Standard).
 
Brian Flinn
 
 
3rd February 2011.
 
Today on a windy but sunny day at 1440hours the High Street at Wootton Bassett once again fell silent except for the solemn
tolling of the single church bell which heralded the imminent arrival of the cortege bearing the body of Private Martin Bell of the
2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment who was killed in an explosion whilst going to the aid of a wounded colleague. It is believed
he attempted this rescue contrary to orders. Private Bell was the three hundred and fiftieth member of our Armed Forces to be
killed in Afghanistan and the 151st to pass along the Wootton Bassett High Street.
 
Hundreds of people lined the street to pay their respects including many of Private Bell’s relatives and friends, fellow members
of the Parachute Regiment, civil dignitaries, veterans and members of the general public. 28 Standards of a variety of ex- service
organisations dipped in salute as the cortege halted at the War Memorial for two minutes silence during which numerous floral
tributes were placed on the Hearse. After this tribute the cortege moved off to continue its sad journey to the John Radcliffe
Hospital in Oxford.
 
Representing our Association at Wootton Bassett were Jack and Veda Sharp, Vic and Val Smith, Ken Ivie, Ivan Carey, Mike Archer,
Kim Hassall and Tony Lake and at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Brian Simmonds, Pat Plumridge, Bryan
Crossin and Bob Strachan who paraded the London Home Counties Standard.
 
Tony Lake
            
 
10 February 2011
 
Hundreds of rain soaked people lined Wootton Bassett High Street today to pay respects to two more soldiers who had recently died on active service in Afghanistan.  Being repatriated on this occasion were Ranger David Dalzell, 1st Battalion, The Irish Regiment, who died as a result of an "operational accident" in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province on the 4th February and Warrant Officer Class 2 (CSM) Colin Beckett, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, who was killed by an explosive device in the village of Shaheed, also in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province on the 5th February.  The town again fell silent as the tolling of the lone church bell indicated that the funeral cortege was approaching.  As the police motorcycle and car escorts passed by, the 32 Association and cadet organisation Standards paraded were lowered in salute and the uniformed personnel, ex-service and civilians paid respects to the fallen in their own particular way.  While the hearses were stopped at the War Memorial, family, friends and colleagues of the two soldiers placed flowers on the vehicles.  Representing the RAFPA at Wootton Bassett today were Mike Archer, Ivan Carey, Brian Flinn, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Tony Lake and Vic & Val Smith. Representing us at the John Radcliffe were Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Pat Plumridge and Bob Strachan (LHC Standard). 
 
Brian Flinn
 
17 February 2011
 
Today's repatriation ceremony took place after dark due to an unexpected two hour delay.  The delay was caused by a hydraulic failure on the aircraft carrying the coffins of the repatriated soldiers, the doors were unable to be opened in order to take the fallen to the Chapel of Rest at RAF Lyneham for the family services.  This delay appeared to be quite distressful for some of the family and friends who had gathered at Wo otton Bassett to say their farewells.  There were five soldiers being repatriated on this occasion, three soldiers from three different battalions of The parachute Regiment and two soldiers from different detachments of the Royal Logistic Corps.  This different spread of locations meant an extremely large number of uniformed personnel in attendance to represent each individual, additionally there was also a great many family and friends gathered to pay their respects.  Even though the numbers present was very large, the town fell eerily quiet, in the dark, as the toll of the church bell indicated the approach of the funeral cortege.  The 30 paraded Association Standards were lowered and everyone gathered paid their respects to the fallen soldiers.  Being repatriated today were Private Lewis Hendry, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, and Private Conrad Lewis, 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, who were both killed by small arms fire while on patrol in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province on the 9th February, Lance Corporal Kyle Cleet Marshall, 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, was killed in an explosion while on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province on the 14th February, Private Robert Wood and Private Dean Hutchinson, both from the Royal Logistic Corps, both died as a result of a domestic fire in Camp Bastion, also on the 14th February.  Representing the RAFPA on this sad and emotional occasion at Wootton Bassett were Mike Archer, David Budd (Wilts Standard), Brian Flinn, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Tony Lake and Vic & Val Smith.  Our representatives at the John Radcliffe were Brian Crossin, Mike Lester, Pat Plumridge and Bob Strachan (LHC Standard).
 
Brian Flinn  
 
      
 
A TRIBUTE TO A BRAVE YOUNG NCO AND HIS BRAVE YOUNG DOG.

On the 10th March, a cold and windy, but sunny afternoon the High Street at Wootton Bassett was the scene of yet another Repatriation Ceremony. On this occasion we had all gathered to honour and pay our final respects to Lance Corporal Liam Tasker of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, aged 27, from Kirkaldy in Fife. L/Cpl Tasker was shot by enemy gunfire on 1st March whilst on patrol with his 22 months old springer spaniel, Theo, from the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment. Theo came through this exchange of fire unscathed but sadly died of a seizure whilst on the way back to base and his ashes were returned to the UK on the same aircraft as his handler.

At 1625 hours the High Street fell silent except for the mournful toll of the single church bell; 30 standards from a wide variety of Service and Ex-service Organisations dipped in salute as the cortege came to a halt at the War Memorial; and the route lined by numerous serving and ex-service dog handlers from the Civil Police, The Army, The Royal Air Force Police and the Prison Service came to attention and saluted to pay their respects to a brave young man, the 358th member of our Armed Forces to die since this conflict began in Afghanistan.

Supporting the members of L/Cpl Tasker’s family and friends were thousands of civil dignitaries, service and ex-service personnel, member of the emergency services and civilians from all walks of life, many of whom had brought their pet dogs along to emphasise their support for this brave young man and his equally brave young dog.

During the two minutes silence many floral tributes were placed on the hearse before it commenced its journey to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where the Association was represented Bob Strachan,  Brian Crossin and Brian Simmonds.

Those representing The RAF Police Dog Handlers and the RAF Police Association at Wootton Bassett included: Bobbi Stenning,  Steve Lamacraft,  Stew McArdle,  Val and Vic Smith, Badger Brookes, Bob and Mrs Crosby,  Kim Hassall,  Dave Thomas,  Hugh Rees,  Ken Ivie, Tim Swift, June and Bill Edwards, Mark Lloyd, Ivan Carey,  Tim Clarke,  Mike Griffin,  Bob Levens, Jim Graham,  Alan Youens,  Mike Archer,  Piers Dixon,  Nigel Cox and Tony Lake.

On behalf of the Officers of our Association I should like to thank all ex-snowdrops who attended this repatriation ceremony but especially the ex dog handlers who lined the High Street to show their support  for a colleague who lo st his life doing what must be one of the most dangerous occupations our Armed Forces are called upon to perform. It is worthy of note that L/Cpl Liam Tasker and his dog Theo discovered many explosive devices and numerous arms and rounds of ammunition during the five months they had been together in Afghanistan. Can anyone ever calculate how many lives they may have saved between them? 

Tony Lake                                                                     11th March 2011.

10 March 2011

RAF Dog Handlers Pay Respect

Royal Air Force dog handlers from RAF Lyneham and RAF Brize Norton line part of the route at RAF Lyneham as the body of Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps passes by.

He served with the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment as an Arms and Explosives Search Dog handler and was attached to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. Lance Corporal Tasker, who came from Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland was killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday 1 March 2011 when he and his search dog, Theo, were engaged by small arms fire. On return to Camp Bastion his dog, Theo, suffered a seizure and died.

Wootton Bassett is to be given the title of "Royal" in recognition of its efforts to honour the UK's war dead, the prime minister has announced. Repatriations of fallen troops have taken place through the Wiltshire town since 2007. These will end when RAF Lyneham closes at the end of 2012, with the majority of its planes, kit and personnel moving to Brize Norton. The town lies on the route the corteges take to the John Radcliffe Hospital. Making the announcement, David Cameron confirmed that troop repatriations would no longer happen via Wootton Bassett from September. But he said the Queen had agreed to the tribute as "an enduring symbol of the nation's admiration and our gratitude to the people of that town". Mr Cameron told the House of Commons: "Their deeply moving and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning have shown the deep bond between the public and our armed forces.

Once the Queen has conferred the title on Wootton Bassett the town will forever afterwards be entitled to be called 'Royal Wootton Bassett'. The new name will legally come into effect on the date the legal instrument - in this case Letters Patent - is signed and sealed by the Queen. Officials will be contacting the town council to agree with them what form the Letters Patent should take.


 

17 March 2011

A repatriation ceremony took place today to pay respects to yet another brave soldier who had become the latest victim of the conflict in Afghanistan.  This repatriation was held to bring home the body of Lance Corporal Stephen McKee, 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, who was killed when the vehicle in which he was travelling hit a roadside bomb in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province on the 9th of March.  Hundreds of people lined Wootton Bassett High Street, including a significant number of uniform personnel from Irish battalions who, along with many civilians, wore a sprig of shamrock, not only to signify the Irish Regiment connection but also the fact that it was St Patrick's Day, a particularly sad day for an Irish soldier, from an Irish Regiment to be brought home under these tragic circumstances.  The, now very familiar, tolling of the lone church bell indicated the arrival of the funeral cortege when the 23 Association Standards paraded were lowered in salute.  During the minutes silence at the War Memorial, many relatives and friends placed their flowers on the hearse.  As the cortege commence the sad journey to Oxford, a ripple of dignified applause emerged from the gathered family and friends.  Representing the RAFPA at Wootton Bassett were Mike Archer, Brian Flinn, Ron Glover, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Tony Lake and Jack & Vida Sharp.  Our representatives at the John Radcliffe were Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Pat & Maureen Plumridge, Bryan Simmonds, Bob Strachan (LHC Standard) and Bill Sykes

Brian Flinn  

30 March 2011
 
Hundreds of people again gathered in Wootton Bassett today to pay their respects to two more soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan.  Being repatriated on this occasion were Major Matthew James Collins and Lance -Sergeant Mark Terence Burgan, both from 1st Battalion Irish Guards, who died in an explosion when the vehicle in which they were travelling was hit by a roadside bomb in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province on the 23rd March.  There was a large uniformed contingent from the Irish Guards and a very large number of family and friends from Liverpool, the home of L/Sgt Burgan.  As the funeral cortege approached the War Memorial and the 24 Standards on parade were lowered, the sound of applause could be heard emanating from the friends and family of those being repatriated.  Flowers were placed on the first hearse, this was followed by a second round of applause, flowers were then placed on the second hearse, again followed by a round of applause.  As the funeral cortege began to move off, another round of applause was commenced.  When the hearses had left, a shout of "thank you Wootton Bassett" was heard, believed to be from a member of the family of one of the repatriated soldiers, this was then followed by more applause, there was then a call for "three cheers" for the soldiers, followed by more applause.  To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time that this type of action has been taken at a repatriation ceremony.  It was certainly different, and it is understood that everyone has to deal with these situations in their own way. Some of our members had earlier been in conversation with those friends and family from Liverpool and as we departed, we were thanked and also received a round of applause, this is not the first time we have been thanked for attending but we have certainly never received a round of applause before.  A memorable RAFPA 100th repatriation ceremony in a number of ways.  Representing the RAFPA at Wootton Bassett today were Mike Archer, Ivan Carey, Tim Clarke, Brian Flinn, Ron Glover, Kim Hassall, Tony Lake, Ray Orgill, Jack & Vida Sharp and Vic Smith.  Our representatives at the John Radcliffe were Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Mike Lester, Bryan Simmonds and Bob Strachan (LHC Standard).
 
Brian Flinn 
 
photo from NE Branch courtesy the Northern Echo, Darlington.
Location St. Richards Church,  Spennymoor, Paying respects to a Private  Soldier, killed in Afghanistan.  Acknowledgments to Northern Echo
 
13th May 2011
On a sunny but breezy Thursday evening hundreds of people gathered along the High Street at Wootton Bassett to pay their
final respects to Warrant Officer Graham Bean of 73 Engineer Regiment who died whilst attached to the United Nations Force
in Cyprus in early May.
 
At 1740 hours as the cortege entered the High Street the single chuch bell tolled its mournful sound and fourteen standards from a
variety of service and ex-service organisations dipped in silent salute. Numerous single red roses were placed on the hearse by
relatives and friends of the deceased during the two minutes silence before the cortege left on its long journey to Warrant Officer
Bean's home near Leeds.
 
Veda and Jack Sharp, Kim Hassall and Tony Lake represented the Association on this sad occasion.
 
Tony Lake
 
20th May 2011
On a bright Spring evening on Thursday 19th May with the sun shining on the High Street of Wootton Bassett, Veda and Jack Sharp, Val and Vic Smith, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Ron Glover, Tim Clarke and Tony Lake joined hundreds of locals, serving and ex-service personnel and local dignitaries in paying their final tributes to Marine Dean Mead of Lima Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines who was killed by a bomb whilst searching a compound in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province on Sunday 15th May. Marine Mead was only 19 years of age and came from Carmathen in South Wales.
 
At 1720 hours the cortege entered the High Street to the all too familiar sound of the single church bell tolling; all those gathered to support the family and friends of the deceased fell silent as  the hearse stopped at the War Memorial where numerous white flowers and two large Welsh Flags were placed on top of the hearse. After the customary two minutes silence the cortege departed on its journey to The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. As it left a long and spontaneous round of applause broke the silence.
 
At the entrance to the John Radcliffe, Brian Simmons, Pat Plumridge, Bill Sykes, Bob Strachan, Mike Lester and Reg Lamb represented our Association together with numerous others of all walks of life who regularly assemble to pay their repespects to our sadly deceased service personnel.
 
Marine Dean Mead was the 365th member of our Armed Forces to be killed in Afghanistan since hostilities began
 
Tony Lake     
 
27th May 2011
 
At the Repatriation Ceremony which took place on Thursday 26th May 2011 our Association was represented at the John Radcliffe Hospital by members of the London Home Counties Branch and at Wootton Bassett by members of the Wiltshire Branch. On this occasion we gathered at these two locations to pay our respects to Colour Sergeant Kevin Fortuna of A Company, 1st Battalion, The Rifles, who was killed by an explosion on Monday the 23rd May whilst leading his section on patrol in the Sayedabad Kalay area of the Nahr-e Saraj District of Helmand Province.
At Wootton Bassett High Street Veda and Jack Sharp and Tony Lake joined hundreds of others, including numerous Uniformed Servicemen, Service Veterans, Civilians and Local Dignitaries who had gathered to support the Family and Friends of Col Sgt Fortuna. At 18 20 hours, as the cortege entered the High Street the adjacent church bell tolled its mournful toll and twenty-two Standards representing a wide variety of Service and Ex-Service Organisations dipped in salute. The cortege stopped alongside the Towns' War Memorial for the customary two minutes silence before commencing its long journey to the John Radcliffe Hospital.
At the John Radcliffe Mike and Mrs Lester, Pat and Mrs Plumridge, Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Bill Sykes and the Branch Standard Bearer, Bob Strachan joined many others in this final act of respect as the cortege entered the Hospital grounds.
Colour Sergeant Fortuna was the 366th member of our Armed Forces to die in Afghanistan.
Tony Lake
 
3rd June 2011
 
On a very warm almost Summers' evening the biggest attendance for a long time met in Wootton Bassett High Street onThursday 2nd June; a rough estimate would be over two thousand people stretched the length of the High Street to support the Family, Friends and Service Colleagues of the two deceased Royal Marines from 42 Commando who had been killed by an improvised explosive device whilst on patrol in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province on Friday 27th May. Representatives
of many service and ex- service organisations including twenty-two standards were amongst those gathered to pay their respects to Marine Sam Alexander, aged 28 from Hammersmith, West London and Lieutenant Ollie Augustin from Dartford in Kent.
At 1645 hours the peeling of the lone church bell signaled the arrival of the Cortege in the High Street; it stopped at the Town's War Memorial for two minutes silence during which numerous floral tributes were placed on the two hearses and many empty beer and lager cans were also placed on the roofs of the cars. Spontaneous polite applause was heard after the flowers had been placed before the Cortege left to travel to Oxford. As it moved off a long and sustained bout of applause echoed
along the main thoroughfare.
Representing our Association at Wootton Bassett were Veda and Jack Sharp, Ivan Carey, Mike Archer, Ron Glover, Ken Ivie and Tony Lake; and at the John Radcliffe by Brian and Roselle Crossin, Mike Lester, Bill Sykes, Warrant Officer Bill Veazey with his two daughters, and Maureen and Pat Plumbridge with their friend Gil.
 
Members of the Oxford contingent of the London Home Counties Branch of the RAFP Association joined by WO. Bill Veazey and daughters Sarah and Laura, at the Repatriation of Lieutenant Oliver Richard Augustin and Marine Samuel Giles William Alexander MC, 42 Commando, Royal Marines, who were killed in the Loy Mandeh area of Nad 'A, at the Final Turn to the John Radcliffe in Headley Way Oxford.
Pat Plumridge, WO Bill Veazey and Sarah, Brian Crossin, Mike Lester, Bill Sykes and Graham the Red Cap.
Photo Laura Veazey
Mike Lester
 
Tony Lake
 
9th June 2011

For the fifth Thursday running Wootton Bassett High Street was the location for 3 more Repatriations of British Military Personnel killed in Afghanistan. These were; Cpl Michael John Pike, aged 26, of the 4th Battalion, The Highlanders who died when he came under fire from rifles and rocket propelled grenades in the Lashkar Gar district of Helmand Province: L/Cpl Martin Gill, aged 22, from 42 Commando, Royal Marines who was shot by insurgents whilst on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj District and Rfn Martin Lamb, aged 27, of the 1st Battalion, The Rifles who was killed by a bomb in the Kareen area of Nahr-e Saraj.

The High Street was filled with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of grieving relatives, friends, service colleagues, veterans and general public who had come to honour and pay their respects to the deceased.

At 1645 hours, those gathered fell silent, the local church bell tolled its solemn knell, 33 standards from a wide variety of Service and Veterans Organisations dipped in salute, and the cortege entered the High Street, stopping at the War Memorial for the customary two minutes silence which was considerably prolonged whilst a tremendous amount of floral tributes were placed on the hearses. After this short, but very poignant and sorrowful service was over the cortege slowly left Wootton Bassett on its journey to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Representing our Association at Wootton Bassett were Ruth and John Crosby, Jenny and Alan Mitchell,Val and Vic Smith, Kim Hassall, Ron Glover and Tony Lake and at Oxford, Maureen and Pat Plumbridge, with Gil, Brian Crossin, Mike Lester, Reg Lamb, Bob Strachan, Bill Sykes and Brian Simmonds.

As many members may know by now that Big Steve and the Royal British Legion Bikers regularly attend the Repatriations at Wootton Bassett; this time there were 58 of them present, presenting a remarkable sight in their leathers with an awesome display of bikes.

Whilst we mourn the death of three more young servicemen it is perhaps also time to remember our Canadian friends who have lost 156 personnel in Afghanistan, Australians who have lost 27 and New Zealanders who have lost 6. 4 Fijians, as members of the British Army have also been killed in Afghanistan.

Tony Lake

24th June 2011

An unprecedented number of Standards lined the High Street at Wootton Bassett at 17 15 hours on Thursday 23rd June representing numerous Service and ex-Service Organisations including those of Associations whose Regiments are but distant memories, such as The Staffordshire and the Royal Berkshire Regiments. In total there were 54 standards paraded. On this day hundreds of Service Personnel, Local Dignitaries, Veterans and Civilians gathered to support the families of the two
soldiers who had recently lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict and to pay their respects to Craftsman Andrew Found aged 27 and Private Gareth Bellingham aged 22. Cfn Found of the REME was serving with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in the Gereshk Valley when he was killed by a roadside bomb and Pte Bellingham was shot whilst on a patrol as part of a protective cordon guarding a meeting between the Afghan National Army and locals who had recently re-occupied the Haji Toi Aga Kalay area in the Nahr-e Saraj District.
 
At approximately 1725 hours the cortege entered the High Street whilst the local single church bell tolled; it stopped at the War Memorial directly in front of the families for the customary two minutes silence during which numerous floral tributes were placed on the hearses before proceeding on the very sad journey to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
 
At Wootton Bassett our Association was represented by Ron Glover, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Tony Lake, John Williams, Veda and Jack Sharp and Val and Vic Smith with Bob, an ex RMP who invariably joins our small file of white berets and at The John Radcliffe we were represented by Bob Strachan with the London Home Counties Standard, Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Brian Simmonds and Maureen and Pat Plumbridge with Gil and ex Red Cap Graham who joins them on many occasions.
 
On this occasion at the John Radcliffe, Cpl Johnson Beharry who was awarded the Victoria Cross for an act of outstanding bravery in Afghanistan, joined those assembled and personally met all our Association members present at the time.
The death toll of the United Kingdom's Service Personnel killed in Afghanistan now stands at 374.
 
Tony Lake
 
13 July 2011
 
A total of 22 Standards lined the High Street of Wootton Bassett at 1515hrs on Tuesday 12th July representing numerous Service and ex ServiceOrganisations.
During this bright Tuesday afternoon many hundreds of Service and ex Service Personnel,the local Lord Mayor,local Dignitories,Veterans and numerous civilians gathered to pay their last respects to the lone soldier who lost his life in Afghanistan. Highlander Scott McLaren of the 4th Scottish Regiment,Royal Regiment of Scotland was just 20 years of age.
 
At 1540hrs the cortege entered the high Street whilst the Tenor bell of the local church began it's toll,the cortege stopped at the War Memorial for the customary 2 minutes silence during which a multitude of flowers were placed on the hearse before proceding on it's lonely journey to Oxford.
At Wootton Bassett our Association was represented by Jack and Vida Sharp,Kim Hassell,George Horton,Ken Ivie,Ivan Carey,Mike Archer,John and Ruth Crosby and Ron Glover.
 
At John Radcliffe we were represented by Brian Crossin,Reg Lamb,Brian Simmons,Bill Sykes,Mike Lester with the standard bearer Bob Strachan.
Regretably the death toll of the United Kingdom Service Personnel in Afghanistan now stands at 375.
 
Ron Glover
 
22 July 2011
 
A total of 25 Standards lined the High Street of Wootton Bassett at 1500 on Thursday 21 July representing a multitude of Service and ex Service Organisations.
On this occasion the weather was not too kind however this did not negate the fact that many hundreds of Service and ex Service Personnel,Wootton Bassett's Lord Mayor,local dignitaries,many Veterans and numerous civilians gathered to pay their last respects to the two soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan.Cpl Mark Taylor of the 1st Battalion,The Rifles was killed whilst on patrol in the Helmand Province,he was aged just 32, South African born L/Cpl Paul Watkins,aged 24 of the 3rd Battalion,Mercian Regiment was also killed in Helmand Province.
At 1630 hrs the cortège entered the High Street led by the lone Pall Bearer who as normal walked in front of the hearse whilst the lone Tenor bell of the local church began it's toll,stopped at the War Memorial for the customary 2 minutes silence during which many floral tributes were placed on the hearse before proceeding on it's way to Oxford.The 25 standards dipped their standards as a mark of respect.
At Wootton Bassett our Association was represented by Jack and Vida Sharp,Brian Flinn,Ken Ivie,Ivan Carey and Ron Glover.
At John Radcliffe we were represented by Brian Crossin,Reg Lamb,Mike Lester,Pat Plumbridge and the Standard Bearer Bob Strachan.
Sadly the death toll of the United Kingdom Service Personnel in Afghanistan now stands at 377.
Ron Glover
 
1st August 2011
 
On Thursday 28h July 2011 a Repatriation Ceremony was held in Wootton Bassett for Senior Aircraftman James Smart who was killed when his vehicle, the lead vehicle in a convoy taking supplies to the UK Forces in Southern Italy, left the road in the Abruzzo Region on 21st July 2011. SAC Smart belonged to No 2 MT Squadron based at RAF Wittering and hadpreviously served in the Falkland Islands and Afghanistan.
At 14.00 hours the cortege entered the High Street to the now very familiar sound of the lone church bell, twelve Standards dipped in salute and two minutes silence was observed by numerous civilians, servicemen, veterans and local dignitaries whohad gathered to pay their respects to this young airman and to support his many relatives, friends and service colleagues who assembled at the War Memorial.
After two minutes the cortege proceeded a short distance along the High Street to stop again at a large contingent of RAF personnel from No 2 MT Squadron who had formed a Guard of Honour before leaving Wootton Bassett to travel to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Representing our Association at Wootton Bassett were: Mike Archer, Ivan Carey Ken Ivie, Kim Hassall and Tony Lake together  with our colleagues Phil, ex Royal Navy and Bob ex RMP. The cortege did not go to the John Radcliffe Hospital on this occasion.
Tony Lake
 
11th August 2011
On Thursday 11th August 2011 hundreds of Servicemen, Service Veterans, Civilians and Civil Dignitaries gathered in the High Street at Wootton Bassett to honour, pay their respects and to support the family, friends and service colleagues of Royal Marine James Wright of Juliet Company, 42 Commando. James, who was only 22 years old came from Weymouth and was killed when a grenade was thrown into a checkpoint in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 5th August.
 
At 1430 hours the cortege entered the High Street which was silent except for the ringing of the solitary bell of Saint Bartholomew's Church. 27 Standards from a wide variety of Service and Ex-Service organisations dipped in salute; Servicemen and Veterans saluted and two minutes silence was strictly observed as the cortege halted at the War Memorial. Numerous floral tributes were placed on the hearse before it left to travel to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Marine Wright was the 378th member of the British Armed Forces to die in Afghanistan since the hostilities commenced and this repatriation was very poignant and significant as it may well have been the last time the Wootton Bassett High Street will see such a sad and memorable occasion.
 
Representing our Association were Val and Vic Smith, Ivan Carey, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Ron Glover, Mike Archer and Tony Lake together with friends Bob the Red Cap and Phil from the Royal Navy and at the John Radcliffe Hospital we were represented by Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Bob Strachan, Bill Sykes, Maureen and Pat Plumbridge with Gil and Red Cap Graham.
 
Whilst we reflect on the tragic death of yet another of our young servicemen let us not forget the 31 members of the United States Armed Forces and seven Afghani Soldiers who also lost there lives this week.
 
May each and everyone of them Rest in Peace.
Tony Lake
 
Pat Plumridge, Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb and Bill Sykes.
Some of the London Home Counties Branch of the RAF Police Association who regularly attend the Repatriations held at the Final Turn, as it has been named by the Veterans, in Headley Way, Oxford prior to entering the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Mike Lester
 
19th August 2011
 
On Thursday the 18th August 2011 the afternoon in Wootton Bassett was very reminiscent of a cold November day with heavy rain showers gusting across the town. This was the day that in all probability the town would witness the last Repatriation Ceremony of a member of the British Armed Forces along its High Street as with effect from the 1st September all such repatriations will be routed via RAF Brize Norton.
Operational flying at RAF Lyneham has now ceased and with it the end of an era has been reached.
As the rain ceased thousands of uniformed Military Personnel, Veterans, Civil Dignitaries and Civilians lined the entire length of the High Street in a united show of support for our Armed Forces and in particular to support the Relatives, Service Colleagues and Friends of the deceased and to honour and pay our last respects to Lieutenant Daniel Clark,aged 24, who was 8 Platoon Commander of C Company 1st Battalion, The Rifles. Lt Clark was killed on Friday 12th August whilst returning to his base in the Sharpak area of Nahr-e Sara District of Helmand Province after completing a foot patrol to promote a local community engagement project. He died in an explosion which seriously injured five soldiers under his command.
At 1445 hours silence fell over the High Street except for the sole tolling of St Bartholomew's church bell; forty standards from a wide variety of service and ex-service organisations dipped in salute and all uniformed personnel saluted as the Cortege came to a halt alongside the Town's War Memorial. The normal two minutes silence stretched to nearly five minutes as numerous floral tributes were placed on the hearse, most of which were single long stemmed roses creating a myriad of colour on the roof. After this extended period of silent tribute and reflection the Cortege slowly departed the High Street to its ultimate destination at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Representing the RAF Police Association in Wootton Bassett were, Veda and Jack Sharp, Clare and John Walton, Kim Hassall, Ken Ivie, Ron Glover, John Crosby, Ivan Carey and Tony Lake together with Phil, ex RN and Bob ex RMP; and, at the John Radcliffe we were represented by Bob Strachan with the London Home Counties Standard, Brian Crossin, Reg Lamb, Brian Simmonds, Bill Sykes with his daughter and Maureen and Pat Plumbridge with their friend Val.
 
Tony Lake
 
 
 
Wednesday 31st August 2011 marked the official ending through Wootton Bassett of the Repatriation of  British Forces killed whilst on active service overseas . To commemorate this occasion a Sunset Ceremony was held in the High Street in front of the War Memorial and the flagpole which from February onwards this
year had flown the Union Flag at half mast on every repatriation.
The main road was closed and at two minutes to eight in the evening, just as the sun was setting over the town, the tenor bell of St Bartholomew's church rang its solemn death knoll just as it had been rung on all Repatriation Days as the cortege entered the High Street.
Those assembled, which must have totaled several thousands, were welcomed by the Town Mayor and was followed by the opening prayers led by the Chaplain of the Wootton Bassett Branch of the Royal British Legion. Then the Union Flag was lowered to the tune of the Last Post during which some sixty plus Standards from a
wide variety of Service and Ex-Service Organisations dipped in one final salute. Amongst the many Standards we were proud to parade our National Standard Carried by Nigel Lacey and the Wiltshire Branch Standard carried by Ken Ivie. The Exhortation was recited by the President of the Royal British Legion Wootton Bassett
Branch.
The flag was then handed to the Chaplain and it was placed in St Bartholomew's Church overnight before being taken to Carterton where in front of the Prime Minister it was passed to the Leader of the Carterton Parish Council for flying at future Repatriations passing along Norton Way from RAF Brize Norton to the John Radcliffe
Hospital.
Our Association was well represented at this emotional and sombre Ceremony, as it had been on the vast majority of the 345 repatriations which have passed along the High Street during the four years these ceremonieshave taken place in Wootton Bassett. Those attending, besides our two Standard Bearers were, Vida and Jack Sharp, Ruth and John Crosby, Ron Glover, Ivan Carey, Brian Flinn, Brian Davies from the North West Branch who had travelled down from Chorley in Lancs, and Tony Lake plus our ex-RMP Colleague Bob Parker who has joined us on numerous occassions.
 
Tony Lake 2nd September 2011
 
WOOTTON BASSETT - THE FINAL CHAPTER
 
Thousands lined the High Street of Wootton Bassett on Sunday 16th October 2011 as the town came to a standstill for the
last time as it was to be officially and royally named Royal Wootton Bassett. In the mild autumnal sunshine a gentle breeze
blew along the High Street which was festooned with red, white and blue bunting, numerous flags and floral displays. A carnival
air existed whereas on previous occasion a sombre and dignified atmosphere engulfed the area whilst awaiting the arrival of yet
another cortege. Instead of gathering in the High Street to pay their respects to another fallen member of our Armed Forces
killed in Afghanistan being repatriated through RAF Lyneham this day was devoted to celebrating and witnessing the Royal
Patent awarded to the town.The route through the High Street was lined by hundreds of Royal Navy Sea Cadet, The Army Cadet
Force and The Air Training Corps
During the lead up to the arrival of the VIP guests the crowds were entertained by the Wootton Bassett Town Band and this time
the joyous ringing of the church bells; during the next two hours there was much toing and frowing from the medical services
tending numerous cases of fainting and sickness, and the police force who were out in considerable numbers controlling the
crowds and checking guests in.
Shortly after 1300hours all eyes turned towards the Swindon end of the High Street and soon the rumours that had been circulating
throughout the morning were confirmed, The Prime Minister David Cameron, accompanied by the very new Defence Secretary, Philip
Hammond arrived followed shortly by the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Peter Wall.
At about 1340 hours the Royal Motorcade entered the High Street and came to a halt alongside the canopied stage erected next to the
Town Hall. As the Princess Royal stepped out of her vehicle the earth shattering roar of a C17 Globemaster flying very low over the road
travelling towards RAF Lyneham rendered all conversation futile. The Princess Royal was welcomed by The Mayor, Mr Paul Heaphy,
whose father served in the Royal Force and finished his service at RAF Lyneham. After addressing the assembled crowds Princess Anne
presented The Letters Patent to the Mayor and unveiled the Scroll. The Mayor responded and unveiled the town's new flag.
At 1420 hours the march past parade began; being led by The Royal Marine Band, HMS Collingwood, followed by contingents of fifty
personnel each from the Royal Navy together with The Royal Marines, The Army and the Royal Air Force Regiment; also taking part in the
parade were units from the RNSC, ACF, ATC and other youth organisations and finally a march past of over eighty Military Associations
and Civilian Organisations Standards which included the Royal Air Force Police National Standard and the standards of the Wiltshire,
London Home Counties, North West, Southdowns and South West Area Branches proudly carried by Nigel Lacey, Ken Ivie, Bob Strachan,
John Evans, Eric Harrison and Gordon Poad respectively.The parade marched three hundred and fifty - five paces along the High Street; one
step for each member of the Armed Forces who had ben killed in Afghanistan and had been repatriated via RAF Lyneham and along the
High Street en route to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. As the parade finally ended a C130 Hercules formerly based at RAF Lyneham
flew over the High Street.
The Veteran Corps of Drums of the Guards Division then entertained the crowds with a marching display up and down the High Street whilst
playing numerous "Old favourites". The Princess Royal departed at about 1515 together with the other VIP guests but the crowds
waiting on knowing that one of the Country's favourite aircraft would be making an appearance, At 1600 hours they were not disappointed,
all eyes turned skyward and soon the unmistakable noise of those four massive Rolls Royce engines heralded the arrival of Vulcan XH558.
A couple of circuits round the town brought the proceedings to an end. It was a long day, a very happy day and one I am sure will be
remembered for a long time to come. Association members who stood in the High Street to witness and enjoy a memorable day were, Ken and
Peggy Dalziel, John and Ruth Crosby, Jack and Vida Sharp, Brian Flinn, Ron Glover, Mike Archer, Ivan Carey, and Tony Lake with Jim Spears,
an Associate member from the Southdowns Branch and Chris Woolgar a photographer from the same Branch who will hopefully provide some
good pictures for the Griff.
Will we stop going to Wootton Bassett oops I should say Royal Wootton Bassett now? No the regulars from the Wiltshire Branch have decided
that from time to time we'll go back, just to reminisce and enjoy a bacon butty and a coffee in the place we have called No 2 Mess for over a
hundred Repatriation Days. Sincere thanks must go to all members who have travelled from far and wide to represent the Association on these sad
occasions. We will continue going to Carterton as long as our Armed Forces suffer fatalities in Afghanistan and one day perhaps you will join us
Tony Lake 17th October 2011

Members shown are L to R: Ken Dalziel, Ron Glover, Jack Sharp, Tony Lake, Brian Flinn, Mike Archer, Ivan Carey

 

11/11/11

Members of the Wiltshire Branch at the Royal Wootton Bassett Garden of Remembrance - 11 Nov 11.
L to R: Ron Glover, Ivan Carey, Ken Ivie, Mike Archer, Brian Flinn, David Budd, Tony Lake, John Crosby, Jack Sharp.