More than 60 ex-servicemen lined the streets yesterday to give an emotional final salute to an Oxfordshire soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Veterans from Royal British Legion branches across the county have now stood outside Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital 25 times as a mark of solemn respect and thanks. Yesterday they were joined by friends of Marine Jason Mackie.

The 21-year-old from Bampton died instantly when the vehicle he was travelling in was struck by an explosive device last week in the Basharan area of central Helmand.

Yesterday the cortege carrying Marine Mackie — the 159th British soldier killed in action in Afghanistan since the conflict started in 2002 — drove slowly through Marston and Headington.

Former servicemen saluted and nine Royal British Legion standards were raised then dipped as the coffin carrying Mr Mackie, draped in a Union Jack flag, drove by.

Mr Mackie’s body was carried from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, where he was repatriated, to the JR for a post mortem examination.

Some members of the crowd wept as the cortege led by police motorcyclists went by.

Catherine Shayler, 49, of Grays Road, Headington, whose 25-year-old son Paul has finished a six-month tour of duty in Afghan-istan, said: “We came to show our respects. When you hear of this you’re gutted for the family.

“Every mother who has a son or daughter in the forces out in Afghanistan dreads the knock on the door or the telephone call to tell them this news.

“It’s tragic. They are just kids but they’re our kids and our hearts break for all of them.

“They deserve every bit of recognition they get.”

Diana Winpenny, 21, from Taston, near Chipping Norton, became friends with Marine Mackie when they studied A-Levels together at Burford Community College.

She said: “I was just completely shocked and emotional when I heard. I’ve heard that he really loved the army and he loved being a Royal Marine.

“When I heard this was happening we couldn’t not be here. Jason was very, very funny. He had this grin which everyone seems to have remembered him for.

“One of the most tragic things was that he was just 21 and from what reports said a brilliant, brilliant marine.

“He had so much to live for, it’s really sad.”

It was the 25th repatriation that members of the Kidlington, Headington, Marston and Wheatley branches of the RBL had attended for Oxfordshire soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Headington branch chairman Terry Cox, 58, from Bayswater Road, Barton, said: “They’re only kids but these kids are our heroes.

“They are putting their lives on the line for this country, it’s just a tragedy.”