World News - Wootton's tributes draw to close
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    World News - Wootton's tributes draw to close

    30 August 2011 Last updated at 21:12 ET World News - Wootton's tributes draw to closePlease turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

    From the beginning of September flights will move back to RAF Brize Norton

    The town of Wootton Bassett is to hold a special service later, marking the end of military repatriations there.

    The bodies of 345 service personnel have passed through the Wiltshire town in the last four years.

    At 19:58 BST the townsfolk will watch their Union flag being lowered and blessed before it is taken to RAF Brize Norton where repatriations will resume.

    In recognition of its role in marking such flights, the town will be renamed Royal Wootton Bassett next month.

    The first service took place in April 2007 when the bodies of military personnel began arriving at the nearby RAF base at Lyneham.

    'Best of British' Then, it was a few members of the local branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) bowing their heads as the funeral corteges passed.

    Now hundreds of residents turn out to pay their respects before the bodies are taken on to Oxford.

    Continue reading the main story “Start Quote

    We felt it was appropriate to mark the passing of responsibility from Wootton Bassett to Oxfordshire ”
    End Quote Councillor Paul Heaphy Mayor of Wootton Bassett
    The town became a focal point for those wishing to acknowledge the sacrifice of military personnel, and went on to attract international attention.

    During Prime Minister David Cameron's first US visit, President Barack Obama said their solemn tributes marked "the best of British character".

    Dr Peter Cad****-Adams, a military expert at Cranfield University, said Wootton Bassett had shown the nation it was at war.

    "They've taught us the meaning of sacrifice, and I think we'd forgotten it," he said.

    Speaking in 2009, the then mayor, Councillor Steve Bucknell, said: "We've been careful throughout this process not to get involved in the politics of the war.

    "These repatriations are simply about the soldiers and their families and the support we give to the armed forces."

    During this service, the Union flag will be lowered and then taken to be flown at a memorial garden at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where future repatriation flights will land.

    'Gives us closure' The mayor of Wootton Bassett, Councillor Paul Heaphy, who will hand over the flag, said: "We felt it was appropriate to mark the passing of responsibility from Wootton Bassett to Oxfordshire and we felt it would be wrong not to recognise what has happened over the last number of years.

    "We've had requests from the community to pull something together so we have created this ceremony which hopefully people will feel fitting."

    Anne Bevis, repatriation liaison officer with the RBL in Wootton Bassett, said: "The ceremony will bring closure to us, with the handing over to Brize Norton, it sort of ties it all up nicely and gives us closure, otherwise it is left high and dry."

    The town of Carterton, near Brize Norton, is to continue the tradition started at Wootton Bassett with the creation of a special area where grieving families and local people can pay their respects.

    It is expected to be used for the first time next week when the body of a Royal Marine serving with 42 Commando who was killed on Tuesday is flown home from Afghanistan.

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