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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Shock over soldiers' deaths
Major Bryn Parry-Jones at Colchester barracks
Major Parry-Jones announces the deaths at the company's barracks
All six members of the Royal Military Police who were killed in southern Iraq were based in Colchester, it has been confirmed.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Defence said the soldiers killed were from 156 Provost Company, part of the 16th Air Assault Brigade.

The flag flew at half-mast over the military police building in Colchester on Wednesday.

The garrison is at the heart of the town, which has been left in shock following news of the casualties.

Of the 100,000 people who live in the Essex town, 10,000 are service personnel and their dependants or civilian support staff.

RMP TROOPS KILLED IN IRAQ
Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Tyne and Wear, was among the men who died
Corporal Simon Miller, 21
Tyne and Wear (pictured)
Sergeant Simon Alexander Hamilton-Jewell, 41
from Chessington, Surrey
Corporal Russell Aston, 30
Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Corporal Paul Graham Long, 24
Colchester
Lance-Corporal Benjamin John McGowan Hyde, 23
Northallerton, Yorks
Lance-Corporal Thomas Richard Keys, 20
Bala, N Wales

A spokesman for 16 Air Assault Brigade said: "The brigade's padre Nick Cook is working with families and colleagues of those lost.

"The mood in the garrison is very sombre.

"Counselling is also available to those still in Iraq and we have a padre working out there."

He said the members of the brigade in Iraq were due to return over the next month and the deaths of the six soldiers would not alter those plans.

A Ministry of Defence statement said: "The loss of six soldiers has come as a dreadful shock to us all.

"At this time our priority is to give all the support we can to the families and the friends who have to cope with the loss of their loved ones."

Colchester MP Bob Russell said: "This is the darkest day Colchester Garrison has experienced in almost 60 years.

"The town, where the civilian population probably has as many former servicemen and women as those currently serving in the army, is in shock at this tragic news."

He said about 3,000 local soldiers had served in the war in Iraq and many had already returned home.

'Turned to disbelief'

Mr Russell said: "The relief of their safe return has turned to disbelief at what has now happened.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of those who have lost their lives."

The mayor of Colchester, councillor Chris Hall, said: "The soldiers of the Colchester Garrison and their families are a significant part of the community, and as a result there is a great sense of sorrow in the borough for those who have lost their lives.

Corporal Russell Aston
Corporal Russell Aston, 30, was one of the men killed

"I'm sure, like me, the hearts of the people of Colchester go out to the families of the soldiers involved.

"They are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this sad time."

A tribute to the men who lost their lives has come from the Royal Military Police Training School in Chichester, Sussex, where those who are involved in operations prepare.

A spokesman said: "We are all deeply saddened by the news of the loss of our colleagues and our thoughts are with their families and their friends."

Earlier ambush

The bodies of the soldiers were found at a police station - where they had been training local officers - in a village near Amara about 100 miles north of Basra.

The deaths came after soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, were ambushed earlier on Tuesday.

The deaths mark the heaviest losses suffered in a single day by US-led coalition forces since the war in Iraq began.

Forty-two British troops have died - 19 in accidents - since 20 March.

The UK had suffered no confirmed combat deaths since 6 April.




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