The grief-stricken families of five soldiers killed in Afghanistan watched sadly as the flag-draped coffins of their loved ones were carried off a plane at RAF Brize Norton.

The men included Private Craig O'Donnell from the 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Corporal Mark Wright from the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment soldiers Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead and Lance Corporal Luke McCulloch, and Fijian Ranger Anare Draiva.

Families, friends and colleagues of the servicemen, who were all killed after attacks by insurgents in Afghanistan, were united in grief at yesterday's repatriation service.

Defence Secretary Des Browne and the Duke of Kent were also at the ceremony.

The body of Pte O'Donnell, 24, from Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, was the first to be carried off the black C-17 transport plane as a bagpipe lament was played.

The serviceman, whose girlfriend Jessica is expecting their first child in December, was killed by a suicide bomb in Kabul on September 4.

Family members and colleagues hung their heads, wiped tears from their eyes and saluted each coffin as they were put into the funeral cars.

Lance Cpl Muirhead was fatally injured on September 1 following an attack by Taliban soldiers on his base at Musa Quala, in Helmand province.

The 29-year-old from Bearley, Warwickshire, died five days later.

Ranger Draiva, 27, known as 'Smiler' to his friends, was killed in the same incident.

Lance Cpl McCulloch, 21, died after a conflict with enemy soldiers in Sangin, also in Helmand province on September 6.

Cpl Wright, 27, from Edinburgh, was killed trying to save an injured paratrooper after a patrol entered an unmarked minefield in Helmand province.

After the ceremony, Commander-in-Chief of Land General Sir Redmond Watt offered his condolences to the families.

He said: "These tragic events highlight the risk servicemen and women run on a daily basis around the world.

"Their deaths will in no way diminish the resolve of those in the armed services and we will continue operations in Afghanistan as determined as ever.

"Each remarkable individual will be sorely missed by their friends and family and the military community. We will never forget them."

The Band of the Welsh Guards played a selection of sombre pieces throughout the service, which ended with a funeral march.