Families and colleagues of servicemen killed in Afghanistan said thank you to the mourners who have now paid tribute to 100 personnel being taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Members of the Royal British Legion, other service associations and the public have lined up in Headley Way 45 times since June 2008 to pay their respects to those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq as their repatriated bodies are taken to the JR for post-mortem examinations.

Yesterday, in what has become a familiar scene, 200 men and women, young and old, fell silent to pay tribute to Acting Sergeant Michael Lockett MC (Military Cross), 29, of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), the 100th serviceman, brought to Oxford since the ceremonies were started. He was killed on September 21 by an explosion in Helmand.

But the public received their own tribute from the families of Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe and Marine Dale Gostick, who said the mark of respect was hugely appreciated by relatives of the dead.

Lt Col Thorneloe MBE, 39, of Kirtlington, was killed on July 1 by an explosion while on convoy near Lashkar Gah, in Helmand. His father, retired Major John Thorneloe, said: “The consistent presence of the public support in Oxford — as was the case with my son — has raised the publicity factor enormously to the extent that when my son and four of his comrades were brought back the chief of the defence staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, personally thanked them.

“Frankly, it shows that people are proud to be British.

“I would like to thank all those who have lined — and continue to line — the streets in a great big way.

“It is a way of saying thank you and reminds the public of the great sacrifice individuals make.”

Marine Gostick, 22, of Great Haseley, near Thame, was killed on May 25, 2008, near Sangin, Helmand.

His father, ex-Royal Marine John Gostick, 58, said: “I think it’s just ordinary people paying their respects.

“To some people it might be a pretty disheartening sight, but for these people to turn out time after time, it’s brilliant and very humbling.

“To many of the old boys you see in their berets, it’s all part of their history. These people don’t feel like they have to do this, they just do it, and it says more about people’s feeling than anything.

“As an ex-serviceman, I feel very proud that people decide to turn out and pay their respects week after week.”

Father-of-four Warrant Officer Gary O’Donnell, 40, was killed in September last year trying to defuse a Taliban bomb in Helmand.

Captain Eamon Heakin, a friend and former colleague from the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal based at Vauxhall Barracks, Didcot, added: “It’s unbelievably selfless to see people showing their support to the servicemen and, in an ironic way, it means a lot to the rest of the servicemen that people are supporting us.”

Since operations started, one other Oxfordshire-based soldiers has died while on duty in Afghanistan. Marine Jason Mackie, 21, of Bampton, west Oxfordshire, of Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, was killed on May 14, 2009, when his vehicle struck an explosive device in central Helmand.

The military cortege’s journey through Oxford’s suburbs yesterday has become a familiar sight in Headington and Marston, writes Victoria Owen.

Scores of flags bowed down to honour the dead servicemen travelling to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Lining Headley Way has become a regular — and tragic — role for Oxfordshire’s Royal British Legion standard bearers.

Although there is camaraderie between members who meet for the event, an air of solemnity falls on them as the motorcade files past.

At that moment, they take 20 seconds to “dip” their flags to the ground — an official manoeuvre usually carried out at Remembrance Day parades and funerals for elderly RBL members.

Mike Richardson, of Kidlington Branch, said: “As a standard bearer I’m the public face of the RBL.

“I’m happy to support the lads coming home and I like to think their families appreciate what we’re doing.

“These boys and girls are losing their lives and us being there doesn’t do them any good, but the public get to know what’s going on. We don’t hear about the ones left injured but being at the hospital lets them know we’re thinking about them.”

Retired joiner Mr Richardson, 71, of Cherry Close, Kidlington, who served as a Royal Air Force reconnaissance photographer in the 1950s, has missed only two of the corteges since they started in June 2008.

He said: “When we meet up at Headley Way we often have an hour or so to wait and it’s quite a social event — one or two members have met up with people they haven’t seen since the 1950s.

“But it goes very quiet when the cortege passes.

“I always think of two things at that point.

“I think about what I’m doing, because there are specific rules to follow.

“At the same time I fill with emotion. If I look up at the cars there’s usually flowers and once there were little teddies.

“It brings a lump to your throat and I’ve seen grown men cry as the lads pass.”