Marine's Body Flown Home

The town of Wootton Bassett fell silent on Thursday August the 11th for what could be the final time as a fallen Royal Marine was repatriated to the UK.

Around 500 people lined the Wiltshire town's high street to pay tribute to 22-year-old Marine James Wright from Weymouth, who was killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan last week.

Marine James Wright

At the end of the month, repatriations return to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire as RAF Lyneham closes.

Wootton Bassett's place in the story of the Britain's operations in Afghanistan began only by chance in April 2007 when Brize Norton was closed for runway repairs.

Instead the returning C-17s brought the bodies back to Lyneham - less than five miles from Wootton Bassett centre.

To get to the special armed forces department of pathology at Oxford's John Radcliffe hospital, a hearse has no choice but to drive down the high street before heading east along the M4.

In those first days, there was no pavement vigil or saluting or silences and the coffins passed almost unnoticed. By the summer of that year, local members of the Royal British Legion decided to salute the heroes.

From humble beginnings, now hundreds of people gather in the town whenever a repatriation takes place.

James's pregnant partner Shelley Robertson gently cradled her bump as she waited with his family for the cortege to arrive.
Miss Robertson and her partner's father David, mother Sallie and sister Katie, each placed a single red rose on top of the hearse as it stopped in front of the war memorial.

Marine James Wright

The Marine died in hospital after a grenade was thrown into his patrol's checkpoint in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province.

Afterwards Mrs Wright comforted a crying Miss Robertson and Katie was hugged by her cousin Ross, who followed James into the Royal Marines.

Marine James WrightFollowing his death, his father said:

''James was so proud to be a Royal Marine and we are so proud of him. He was determined to be the best.''

His mother added:

''He was always smiling with a wonderful sense of humour. James never had a bad word to say about anyone and was so kind and considerate.''

The couple added: ''James loved his family and was as proud of us as we are of him. He touched the lives of everyone who knew him.''

Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison, MBE, Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said:

''Marine James Wright was an impressive young man with an insatiable appetite for life.

''A spirited and passionate character, he loved his job, his fellow Marines and his family and leaves behind a massive void in the lives of all those who knew him.

''An extremely bright prospect, he was renowned for his cheerfulness, no matter how dire the situation, and indefatigable loyalty and commitment to his profession.''

The serviceman took part in Navy ski championships in France, scaled Ben Nevis and had a passion for motocross.

Colleagues remembered how he had once rescued a cow that had got trapped in barbed wire near their base, and treated its injuries, and praised him for his jovial nature.

His nickname was ''Big Reach'', because he once befriended a gangster on the streets of New York who used that name.

In March, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Wootton Bassett would be the first town in more than 100 years to get the title of "Royal'', in recognition of its efforts in honouring the UK's war dead.

Mr Cameron said the Queen had agreed to the tribute as

"An enduring symbol of the nation's admiration and our gratitude to the people of that town''.

He told the House of Commons: "Their deeply moving and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning have shown the deep bond between the public and our Armed Forces.''

Marine James Wright