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
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.
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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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
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
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.
24th June 2011
Members shown are L to R: Ken Dalziel, Ron Glover, Jack Sharp, Tony Lake, Brian Flinn, Mike Archer, Ivan Carey