Brize Norton takes over from Wootton Bassett for Soldier Repatriation
RAF Brize Norton, the Oxfordshire airbase has taken over the soldier repatriation duty from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, with the first repatriation expected to take place soon. Brize Norton, UK. 1st September 2011
A SUNSET ceremony was held in Wootton Bassett last night to mark the end of military repatriations through the town.
The Union flag was lowered down the flagpole and blessed before being rehoisted and raised in Brize Norton today.
The Oxfordshire base has taken over the duty from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, and the first repatriation is expected to take place next Thursday.
Last night the Ministry of Defence named Sgt Barry ‘Baz’ Weston as the soldier who will be the first honoured there after he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand province in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Sgt Weston was born in Reading in February 1971 and joined the Royal Marines in 1991.
His family said last night: “We are devastated. He was a caring, loving husband and son and a devoted father. He died doing the job he loved and we are very proud of him.”
The 40-year-old leaves behind his wife, Joanne, and their three daughters, Jasmine, Poppy and Rose.
Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Murchison MBE Royal Marines, Commanding Officer 42 Commando Royal Marines, Coalition Force Nad Ali (North), said: “His passion for the men in his charge was obvious and he looked after their interests and welfare with a dogged determination.
“They looked on him with the utmost respect. One of life’s real characters, he will be remembered for his dry, sharp sense of humour and canny ability to make light of the direst of situations.”
People wishing to pay their respects in Brize Norton will be able to visit a purpose-built memorial garden in Norton Way.
The garden was officially opened today and will hold about 500 people.
The soldier’s family will be cared for in a purpose-built £2.8m repatriation centre in the base. It opened on August 26.
The cortege will leave the base through the renamed Britannia Gate on its way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Councillor David Robertson, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The first repatriation will be a solemn and respectful occasion.
“I believe that the area that has been laid out in Norton Way will be sufficient for people who want to go to that spot.”
Brize Norton Parish Council chairman Keith Glazier said: “It will be a very solemn and sombre occasion. The memorial gardens is believed to be a most fitting tribute for the fallen and the most suitable place for all to show their respects.”
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the first repatriation ceremony.
But Mr Glazier added: “There is only limited space for people to stand in Brize Norton village, so we are trying to encourage everyone to go to Norton Way.”