8:23am Wednesday 15th July 2009
By Tom Shepherd
THEY waited for hours, but they would have waited all night if necessary.
More than 300 ex-servicemen, pensioners, students and families lined the road to the John Radcliffe Hospital yesterday to pay tribute to eight British soldiers killed in Afghanistan in a single 24-hour period.
Hundreds more paid their respects at various points along the route to Oxford, with traffic coming to a standstill on the A420 as motorists got out of their cars to pay tribute.
Originally the cortege — the largest since the conflict began — had been expected to reach the hospital at 4.30pm, but it was not until shortly after 7.15pm it finally arrived.
Earlier the families of the fallen men, three of whom were just 18, attended a private ceremony at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.
Two thousand people lined the streets of Wootton Bassett, while hundreds of people gathered in groups along the A420 as well.
Ninety-six-year-old Len Rodman, from Woodstock, was one of those outside the JR.
The Second World War veteran said: “It hurts to think we have youngsters fighting and dying at such a young age.
“The war has been going on too long, longer than the Second World War, and I can’t see it finishing for a long time.”
In contrast to Mr Rodman was four-year-old Lucy Parsons from Littlemore, taken to the tribute by her parents Dale and Caroline.
Lucy, who attends pre-school in Abingdon, said: “I respect the soldiers.”
Mr Parsons, 42, said: “It’s just such a waste of life. It makes me feel so lucky to have lived so long.”
Luke Howard, 16, a student at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, said: “Coming out to pay my respects is the least I could do.”
Lord Mayor of Oxford Mary Clarkson paid tribute to the hundreds of well-wishers from across the county.
She said: “It’s heartbreaking and you feel the least you can do is show your sympathy.”
Motorist Jim Trudgian estimated there were hundreds of people in lay-bys, on bridges and stopped in their cars on the A420 as the cortege made its way in to Oxford from Wiltshire.
He said: “There were all generations, not just old ex-servicemen.
“When we got to the little roundabout to go to Wantage, everyone just got out of their cards and dropped their heads.”
Among the servicemen being repatriated were five soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Rifles who died near Sangin, Helmand Province on Friday.
They were Corporal Jonathan Horne, 28, and Riflemen William Aldridge, 18, James Backhouse, 18, Joseph Murphy, 18, and Daniel Simpson, 20.
Corporal Lee Scott, 26, of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, also died in an explosion on Friday, just north of Nad-e-Ali.
Making up the eight were two men were killed in separate incidents on Thursday.
Private John Brackpool, 27, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was shot at Char-e-Anjir near Lashkar Gah, while Rifleman Daniel Hume, 22, of 4th Battalion The Rifles was blown up near Nad-e-Ali.
In the last eight days, 15 soldiers have been taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital for their post-mortem examinations to be carried out.
The total number of UK military fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001 is 184 — surpassing the 179 who died in Iraq.
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