Base closure may end tradition of memorial parades

The closure of an RAF base could see the end of memorial parades through a town which has become known for honouring fallen British soldiers as they are repatriated to Britain.

The residents of Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire have lined the streets to pay their respects to Britain's war dead as they are flown home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The town lies between RAF Lyneham and the M4 motorway and is on the route taken by corteges as bodies are transported to the Armed Forces department of pathology at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

But with RAF Lyneham set to close, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is now considering future arrangements.

Relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan reacted angrily to the plans, which were revealed yesterday in The People newspaper.

Private Jeff Doherty, 20, was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan on June 12 2008 while on foot patrol with the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

His mother Joyce said: "The day Jeff was brought home through Wootton Bassett will live long in my memory.

"Seeing the people there lining the streets was strangely comforting and that tribute from the public is the least any one of our war heroes deserves.

"If that were to stop it would be a huge shame and I truly believe the British people would be deeply saddened."

A MoD spokeswoman said: "We continue to be grateful for the support Wootton Bassett shows in paying tribute to those servicemen and women who have lost their lives on active service and who are repatriated into nearby RAF Lyneham.

"RAF Lyneham's closure was announced in 2003 and future arrangements are currently being considered." It is possible Lyneham's closure will mean bodies are flown back to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and driven along the A40.