IN just 10 weeks the family of Sergeant Lee Davidson were expecting him to return home for the birth of his daughter.
Yesterday, they were laying single red roses on his hearse.
Sgt Davidson, 32, of The Light Dragoons, was killed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Sunday in a roadside bomb attack on his vehicle. His wife, who is six months pregnant, along with his sisters, mother and grandfather gathered at Carterton’s memorial garden yesterday for his repatriation.
They were joined by about 300 members of the public and dozens of members of The Light Dragoons, who had travelled from Newcastle, Harrogate and their regimental base in Norfolk.
Major General Andrew Stewart, colonel of The Light Dragoons, said Sgt Davidson had died a hero.
He said: “Sgt Davidson will always be remembered in the regiment. He was an outstanding leader and will be held in high esteem forever with us.”
He added: “The British forces as a whole are hugely honoured and grateful that Carterton has taken on this task.
“There is a family here that can see that a small town in Oxfordshire feels as deeply as they do about the loss they have suffered.”
Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Browell, formerly of The Light Dragoon, said: “We are one big family and this touches everyone in the regiment.
“Although I did not know Sgt Davidson personally, I feel it is part of my duty and my involvement with this regiment to come and pay my respects.”
Lance Corporal Steve Fretwell, a former member of 13/18th Royal Hussars which later became The Light Dragoons, travelled from Barnsley to be at the ceremony.
He said: “We are here for the current and former regiment. We are all comrades.
“Even though we did not know him, we are part of a wider family and we are here to show our respects so that a fallen hero is not forgotten.”
In a statement issued before the ceremony, Sgt Davidson’s wife Samantha said: “My gorgeous husband Lee, we all can’t believe you have gone.
“You are my best friend, lover and the best husband and father I could have ever wished for.”
They have two sons, Jayden and Jamie, and are from Doncaster.
Last week marked the anniversary of the first repatriation to RAF Brize Norton since it took back the duty from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire a year ago.
Carterton mayor Adrian Coomber said: “A year has passed and people are still coming out in large numbers to support the families.
“The community does what I think they feel is their duty, to stand here with the families and pay their respects.”
The cortege left the memorial garden to respectful applause and made its way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where dozens of people gathered along Headley Way to pay their respects.