Repatriation Honour For Oxfordshire

1 September 2011, 15:20

From today the bodies of fallen soldiers will be flown back to the UK through RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

David Cameron led tributes to the armed forces who ``made our country great'' at a ceremony to mark the transfer of repatriations of fallen troops from Wiltshire to a new RAF base.

The Prime Minister said "we cannot thank them enough'' for their efforts and the sacrifices they make.

After four years, ceremonies returned to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Thursday. They were moved to RAF Lyneham in April 2007 when Brize Norton was closed for runway repairs.

Speaking at the ceremony Mr Cameron said:

"My job comes with a huge number of great privileges and a lot of interesting people to meet. But there is no greater privilege than meeting those who serve our country.

"When you are speaking to 18-year-olds who are going out on foot patrol in Afghanistan, risking their lives in the heart of enemy territory, when you are talking to logistics staff on operations who haven't seen their families for months or when you are speaking with the pilots who are flying sorties night after night in the skies over Libya, you realise these are not just people who keep our country safe, these are the people who make our country great.

"I cannot stress enough the sacrifices they make for us and we cannot thank them enough for what they do. And we cannot say enough how proud we are of them and all that they do for our country.''

Mr Cameron's comments came as hundreds of soldiers and RAF personnel learned that they were being sacked in the first wave of defence redundancies.

Hundreds of people - including three coachloads from Wootton Bassett - attended the ceremony marking the official handover of repatriations from Wootton Bassett to Oxfordshire.

On Wednesday night a moving sunset ceremony marked the end of repatriations through Wootton Bassett when the Union flag on the high street was taken down. On Thursday the flag was raised to the sound of a lone bugle in a newly-built memorial garden on the outskirts of Carterton.

The flag was handed over to the chairman of Brize Norton Parish Council and the mayor of Carterton. It was blessed by the Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, also the Vicar of Carterton and Brize Norton, the Rev Bill Blakey, and presented to the Royal British Legion, who raised it against bright blue skies.