Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 15:54 UK

Hundreds honour dead UK soldiers


Hundreds lined the streets in Wootton Bassett

Hundreds of people have held a one-minute silence in a Wiltshire market town to pay their respects to two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The bodies of Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe, 39, from Oxfordshire, and Trooper Joshua Hammond, 18, from Devon, were flown to nearby RAF Lyneham earlier.

A private memorial was held before the coffins passed through Wootton Bassett.

Meanwhile, two soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Saturday were named as Pte Robert Laws and L/Cpl David Dennis.

A loss like this is terribly blunt, when someone leaves the world so abruptly
Wilbur Heynes, Col Thorneloe's cousin

Shortly after 1100 BST on Monday, the C-17 Globemaster transporting the the bodies of Col Thorneloe and Trooper Hammond landed at the RAF base.

The families of the two men said their own private goodbyes during a memorial at a chapel on the site, before the cortege proceeded to Wootton Bassett.

Later, hundreds of British Legion veterans, shopkeepers and local residents stood in silence as the cars carrying the Union flag-draped coffins slowly drove along the high street.

After pausing at the town's war memorial, the bodies were taken to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

Maurice Baker, president of the Royal British Legion Wootton Bassett branch, said: "This is a military town, there's a lot of servicemen, so it's important to a lot of people here to pay their respects."

Wilbur Heynes, a cousin of Col Thorneloe, said the respect shown by the town had been "touching".

Coffin taken off the plane
The bodies were flown into RAF Lyneham airbase.

He said the loss to his family had been "tremendously difficult".

He added: "A loss like this is terribly blunt, when someone leaves the world so abruptly."

More than 40 members of Trooper Hammond's regiment, dressed in their working uniforms of black overalls, also lined the street to pay their respects.

Sgt Maj Kevin McGarry, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, said Trooper Hammond's death had been difficult for his regiment.

"We're a family regiment. If you sign up for 22 years, you stay in the regiment for 22 years - everyone knows everyone."

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, a personal friend of Col Thorneloe, was in Wootton Bassett to pay tribute to "the best of the best".

Col Thorneloe, from Kirtlington, near Oxford, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards in Aldershot, and Trooper Hammond, from Plymouth, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, were travelling as part of a resupply convoy when a bomb blew up their armoured vehicle on Wednesday.

Six other soldiers were injured in the blast near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.

Lt Col Rupert Thornoloe and Trooper Joshua Hammond

Lt Col Rupert Thornoloe and Trooper Joshua Hammond

Prince Charles and Gordon Brown both paid tribute to the men last week.

The men died as UK and US troops launched a major offensive against Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan.

Col Thorneloe was the most senior British army officer to be killed in action since Lt Col Herbert "H" Jones died at Goose Green on the Falklands on 28 May 1982.

Since 2001, a total of 174 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan.

Tributes have also been paid to two other soldiers who died on Saturday in separate Taliban attacks.

Pte Laws, from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, died from a rocket-propelled grenade and L/Cpl Dennis, from The Light Dragoons, was killed in an explosion.

A third soldier, known to be from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, died on Sunday in a blast near Gereshk in Afghanistan's Helmand province. He has not yet been named.

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