THREE fallen war heroes were brought home from Afghanistan in a solemn and moving ceremony in Carterton yesterday.
Hundreds of friends, family andcomrades gathered to pay their final respects to Lieutenant Andrew Chesterman from 3rd Battalion The Rifles, Lance Corporal Matthew Smith from the Corps of Royal Engineers and Guardsman Jamie Shadrake of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
The bodies of the three servicemen were returned to RAF Brize Norton , and mourners gathered at the memorial garden in Carterton to pay their respects.
The memorial bell tolled when the cortege left RAF Brize Norton.
Gdm Shadrake, 20, from Wrexham, was killed on Friday when his checkpoint was attacked by insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province.
Major Paul Tooze, Gdm Shad-rake’s company commander, said: “We first saw James as a cadet three years ago. He was a good NCO with an infectious smile.
“James was the one who would care for others, he was my trusted first choice. He was someone who you could not only rely on but he would give your team the best chance of success because he had that infectious spirit.”
As the servicemen’s immediate family arrived at the memorial garden and were tearfully greeted by their waiting friends and relatives, the sun came out for the first time that afternoon.
Lt Chesterman, 26, from Bristol, was shot dead in the Nad ’Ali district of Helmand province on Thursday, August 9.
He originally trained at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, but had a change of heart during his training.
Royal Navy Lieutenant Tom Blackburn, who trained with Lt Chesterman, said: “He wanted to be on the front line. He was a fun character, the sort of bloke everyone loved, and he was great at everything.”
When the cortege arrived mourners shed tears as they laid flowers on the hearses.
LCpl Smith, 26, was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Aldershot and played football for the Hale Football Club. He was killed in the Nad ’Ali district when he was hit by small arms fire on Friday, August 10.
Mike Henderson, vice-president of the Oxfordshire Royal British Legion , has attended 36 repatriation ceremonies at Carterton, which was, he said, “36 too many.”
He added: “It is important because of the number of people who turn up to pay respects to the fallen and to show their support.
“There are friends who have travelled from London, Cardiff and Bristol.
“We always get tremendous support and it doesn’t matter whether it be someone from Rifles or Royal Artillery or Marines.”
The cortege drove from Carterton to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital , where hundreds more servicemen and residents congregated in Headley Way to pay tribute.
Stan White, deputy county marshall for the Royal British Legion, who was among those taking part, said: “It was very quiet and solemn.
“There were around 20 standards and one banner.
“The people were mostly those who had been in service.”