Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Three UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan are repatriated


People lined the streets of Wootton Bassett in tribute

The bodies of three soldiers killed in Afghanistan have returned to Britain for their repatriation ceremonies.

They are L/Cpl Michael Pritchard, 22, from Eastbourne, Sussex, L/Cpl Christopher Roney, 23, from Sunderland, and L/Cpl Tommy Brown.

They were flown in to RAF Lyneham, in Wiltshire, where a private ceremony was held at the base's chapel.

The cortege passed through the town of Wootton Bassett, where hundreds stood in the rain to honour the dead men.

L/Cpl Pritchard of the 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police, was killed on 20 December in Sangin by small arms fire.

Ongoing investigations

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said of L/Cpl Pritchard: "The possibility that he died as a result of friendly fire is being investigated in Afghanistan but no firm conclusion will be reached until the coroner's inquest."

L/Cpl Pritchard's friend, L/Cpl Simon Jackson, 21, from Telford, Shropshire, held a flower at the roadside as the cortege drove past.

He said: "He was my mate. I'm very proud of him. He was a top lad and always there for you."

L/Cpl Roney, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, died on 22 December of wounds received the previous day in Sangin, northern Helmand, Afghanistan.

From left: L/Cpl Christopher Roney, L/Cpl Tommy Brown, L/Cpl Michael Pritchard
The soldiers' bodies have been flown back to the UK from Afghanistan

His death is also being investigated as having possibly been caused by "friendly fire".

A group of friends and relatives had travelled from the north east of England to honour L/Cpl Roney, who was a husband and father.

Michael Haddock, 39, from Sunderland, said: "He was my niece's husband. He was a total hero."

Friend Lea Cole, 35, said: "I'm so proud of him and everything he stood for."

Neither wanted to discuss the possible causes of L/Cpl Roney's death, saying it was a day to remember the soldiers.

'Always smiling'

Former mayor of Wootton Bassett, Chris Wannell, said of the possible friendly fire incidents: "Unfortunately these things do happen in war and always have. I feel very, very sorry about that and I expect the poor guys who did it feel absolutely terrible."

L/Cpl Brown, of the Parachute Regiment, became the fourth British death in four days when he was killed on 22 December, after being hit by a suspected improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in central Helmand.

His friend Lisa Ingham, 34, had come from RAF St Athan, in Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, to pay tribute to him.

She said: "Tommy always had a smile. I'm very proud that so many people are here today - especially the older guys. People travelled far and wide."

No further details about L/Cpl Brown have been released and it is understood that he belonged to the Special Forces Support Group, formed in April 2006 to assist the SAS and Special Boat Service on operations.

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