One of Britain's newest traditions was carried out again yesterday. The tiny town of Wooton Bassett in Wiltshire turns out to welcome home military heroes from Iraq or Afghanistan. But, sadly, those heroes have all come home in coffins.
Since 2007, RAF Lyneham, near the town, has been the main base for repatriated service personnel. So when their hearses pass slowly through the streets, members of the public and military personnel (both serving and former) line the streets in silence, the military personnel saluting as the hearses pass by. Tragically, since 2007, this new tradition has been carried out 72 times.
Yesterday the town welcomed back four heroes, including a Ghurka. Those who returned home are Sergeant Ben Ross, of the Royal Military Police; Rifleman Adrian Sheldon, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles; Corporal Sean Binnie of Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland; and Corporal Kumar Pun, of 1st Battalion The Royal Ghurka Rifles.
The four brave soldiers died in a single day of bloody fighting in troubled Helmand Province. The last time there was such large a loss of life for British forces in a single day was in June 17 last year, when four soldiers were killed.
The servicemen's bodies were flown back to the UK in a Hercules aircraft, which landed at RAF Lyneham, Wilts, at around 10am yesterday. A procession then made its way along the A3102 - the road now dubbed the 'Highway for Heroes' - following a fly-by and memorial service at the base. The High Street was brought to an emotional standstill at 2.45pm as the four coffins, draped with Union flags, were paraded slowly past.