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Proud of support for the fallen

Proud of support for the fallen

The Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett has played its final part in the repatriation of fallen services personnel but the funeral director contracted to provide repatriation services says the town’s residents have much to be proud of.

“They managed to grasp the feeling of the nation for these soldiers and expressed it on behalf of everyone,” said Barry Albin-Dyer, chairman of Albin International Repatriation, which is contracted to the Ministry of Defence.

A ceremony has been held marking the relocation of UK military repatriations from RAF Lyneham near the town to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Future corteges will now leave a new £2.8m repatriation centre there, near the town of Carterton.

The bodies of 345 members of the armed forces have passed through the town over the past four years and it is being renamed Royal Wootton Bassett to recognise its role in honouring the fallen.

The mass support for the processions began after posters showing dates for repatriations were displayed in the window of a shop back in 2007. These drew hundreds of people to the roadside to pay their respects.

“The first repatriation we did from RAF Lyneham was a night funeral,” said Barry. “And it was extraordinary; there were so many people. I felt really emotional but I thought at the time, well, I’ll never see anything like that again.

“But we started to see more and we were asked to slow down as we went through Wootton Bassett. I noticed more and more people starting to come out.

'Then the mayor asked us if we could have a stop at the war memorial – and the British Legion were there with flags and salutes. Within a month, we were asked to walk through the town and we had a regular routine. We’d stop by the church and the bell would toll. At that time, the families weren’t with us but that changed.

“It was amazing. The people of the town did it all off their own bat and I’m so glad they’ve been honoured.

“If I were the parent of one of these soldiers, I’d have felt so proud. It doesn’t change the pain but it makes things just that little bit better.”

A union flag from Wootton Bassett was presented by its mayor, Councillor Paul Heaphy, to the chairman of Brize Norton Parish Council and the deputy mayor of Carterton. It was then raised in the memorial garden, which is intended to become a site for tributes to fallen armed services personnel.

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