THOUSANDS of mourners lined the streets surrounding RAF Brize Norton as the bodies of six British soldiers killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan were brought home.
One by one, the hearses carrying Yorkshire Regiment soldiers Corporal Jake Hartley, 20; Privates Anthony Frampton, 20, Christopher Kershaw, 19, Daniel Wade, 20, Daniel Wilford, 21; and 33-year-old Sergeant Nigel Coupe, of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, were transported to the memorial garden near the Oxfordshire base following private services for the grieving families.
As the cortege came to a halt, hundreds of devastated family and friends moved forwards to throw white and red roses onto the six cars.
Monica Kershaw, the mother of Bradford soldier Pte Kershaw, clutched a picture of her son tightly and fought back tears as she stepped forward to lay flowers.
Natalie Taylor, the mother of Cpl Hartley, of Dewsbury, stood with her 12-year-old son Ethan, and was supported by family members as she struggled to stand.
Margaret Charlesworth, of Huddersfield, who was wearing a T-shirt dedicated to her son Pte Frampton which read “My Beautiful Boy”, waved one last time at his coffin as it was driven away.
The nation has been in shock since the deaths of the soldiers, who were on patrol in a Warrior armoured vehicle two weeks ago when it was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
But yesterday, heartbroken family members told the Yorkshire Post they were determined the deaths of their sons would not be in vain.
Police Sergeant Spike Yarrow, of Batley, the uncle of Cpl Hartley who supported his mother Natalie Taylor throughout the proceedings, said: “Wars are won by destroying the enemy’s resolve. We as a family will stay strong – this will not ruin us.
“Everybody has been devastated by what has happened – you just cannot even speak.
“It will be a long time before she recovers. It is not going to be a quick and easy process.
“It just leaves that void in your life which is characterised by what could have been.
“She will go to people’s weddings and think, ‘that could have been my boy’.”
More than 200 family members travelled from Yorkshire to attend yesterday’s repatriation service at the purpose-built memorial garden at Carterton, which was unveiled last year as an alternative public focal point to the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett when repatriation flights were moved from RAF Lynham to RAF Brize Norton. Many wore T-shirts dedicated to the individual soldiers while dozens of small cardboard crosses bearing individual messages were also left.
One, dedicated to Pte Kershaw read: “You were my best friend and I will never forget you sweetheart. I am so proud of you, love you, and miss you always.”
Another dedicated to Yorkshire Regiment soldier Pte Wade, of Warrington, simply read: “RIP Daniel, gone too soon but never forgotten.”
More than 2,000 well-wishers and fellow servicemen also lined the streets of the Oxfordshire town. The mourners watched silently as a C-17 Globemaster plane carrying the six bodies back from Afghanistan landed at RAF Brize Norton at around 1.30pm.
The hearses later drove slowly to the memorial garden where a party of Royal British Legion standard bearers from various regimental associations also paid their respects to the soldiers beside a Union Flag flying at half-mast.
As the cortege left for John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, where further tributes were to be held, a ripple of loud applause rang out from the assembled crowd.
The deaths of Sgt Coupe, a married father-of-two from Lytham St Annes, and the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment soldiers all of whom came from West Yorkshire apart from Pte Wade, of Warrington, took British armed forces’ total number of deaths since operations began in Afghanistan to 404.