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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
RAF bodies return home to Kinloss
Coffin on the transporter

The bodies of 14 servicemen killed when an RAF Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan have arrived back at the aircraft's home base at Kinloss in Moray.

The bodies of British military personnel who have been killed abroad are normally repatriated at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

However, there were calls for the men to be taken back to Kinloss instead.

Twelve Kinloss-based airmen, a Royal Marine and a soldier died 10 days ago, after a suspected technical fault.

Sunset ceremony

A ceremony for the air crew was attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, who is Honorary Air Commodore of the station, and Des Browne, the Secretary of State for Defence.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, who is chief of the defence staff, and chief of the air staff Sir Glenn Torpy also attended.

The flight bringing the bodies to Kinloss left Afghanistan after a brief sunset ceremony.

It called at Brize Norton before touching down at Kinloss shortly before 1150 BST.

First coffin is taken from transporter

Three busloads of relatives of the victims arrived airside shortly before the transporter landed.

They watched the landing from a grandstand area, hidden from the view of cameras.

The first coffin to be taken from the transporter aircraft was that of 22-year-old Royal Marine Joseph David Windall, the youngest of the men killed.

The coffin of L/Cpl Oliver Simon Dicketts from the Parachute Regiment was next to be taken to a hearse waiting on the tarmac.

It took almost an hour to remove the 12 RAF personnel from the aircraft.

They were: Flt Lt Steven Johnson, Flt Lt Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, Flt Lt Gareth Rodney Nicholas, Flt Lt Allan James Squires, Flt Lt Steven Swarbrick, Flt Sgt Gary Wayne Andrews, Flt Sgt Stephen Beattie, Flt Sgt Gerard Martin Bell, Flt Sgt Adrian Davies, Sgt Benjamin James Knight, Sgt John Joseph Langton and Sgt Gary Paul Quilliam.

After the ceremony at Kinloss the bodies were taken to a chapel of rest which has been created at the base.

Later, they are expected to be returned to RAF Brize Norton as part of the inquiry into the crash.

Most of the men were based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland

The defence secretary said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed in this tragic crash.

"They were outstanding, brave and dedicated men. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

"They were working towards making Afghanistan a safe and secure place, as well as protecting our nation and its interests.

"We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for that."

Air Chief Marshal Stirrup added: "Our servicemen and women achieve remarkable things under the most arduous and dangerous conditions - sometimes, alas, at personal sacrifice.

"Their bravery is well known and rightly admired.

"But we must never forget what their loved ones have to endure: the worry and uncertainty they must live with while continuing to run homes and families and - as in this case - the terrible loss.

"Theirs is a courage of the most profound kind."

See the ceremony as the bodies were returned

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