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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 14:47 GMT
Iraq crash RAF dead flown to UK
Coffin of Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall
The coffin of Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall returns
The bodies of 10 servicemen killed when an RAF transport plane crashed in Iraq have arrived in the UK.

Nine airmen and a soldier died when the RAF Hercules came down 20 miles north-west of Baghdad on 30 January.

Their remains have been returned to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, where eight of the airmen were based.

The crash was the single largest loss of British life in Iraq since military action began in 2003. The cause is still being investigated.

The transport plane was said by officials to be on a routine flight from Baghdad to the massive US base at Balad.

There has been speculation that the plane might have been the victim of "hostile action".

Their families are being offered every support on this difficult day and our highest priority is their well-being
Wing Cdr Jules Eaton

The Lyneham crew members were: Flt Lt David Stead, 35, originally from West Yorkshire; Flt Lt Andrew Smith, 25, from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire; Flt Lt Paul Pardoel, 35, from Victoria State, Australia; Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42, from Hull; Chief Technician Richard Brown, 40; Flt Sgt Mark Gibson, 34, from Cardiff; Sgt Robert O'Connor, 38; Cpl David Williams, 37.

The ninth RAF man on board, Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, 39, was from Strike Command Headquarters, at RAF High Wycombe.

Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones, 25, from Fareham in Hampshire, was a soldier serving with the Royal Signals and a passenger on the Hercules.

Home base

A C17 plane carrying the servicemen's bodies landed at the base at 1245 GMT, for a 90-minute repatriation ceremony at 1330 GMT.

"It is extremely poignant that today's ceremony is being held at RAF Lyneham as the majority of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident served or had served here," said Wing Cdr Jules Eaton.

Coffins of the 10 British troops killed in Iraq
The coffins returned from Basra

"We are deeply saddened by their loss but are extremely proud and feel very privileged to be able to bring our friends and colleagues to their home base.

"Their families are being offered every support on this difficult day and our highest priority is their well-being. Support will continue for as long as they require it.


"Every effort has been made to ensure that today's events are a dignified and solemn homecoming. This is not a memorial service, it is a homecoming."

Princess Anne, who is Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Lyneham, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and military chiefs attended the service.

The Princess was to meet the families of the dead after the ceremony.

The 1 Squadron RAF Regiment and the Royal Corps of Signals have formed the bearer parties and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the RAF Regiment Band provided the service music.

The families were due to be given time to spend with their loved ones before Wiltshire Coroner David Masters oversaw the transfer of the coffins to Great Western Hospital in Swindon for formal identification.

Watch the ceremony at RAF Lyneham

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