THE families of the two service personnel repatriated yesterday said they were “overwhelmed” by the county’s support.

Thousands of people across Oxfordshire turned out to pay their respects to Lance Corporal Jonathan McKinlay and Royal Marine David Fairbrother.

And many of those gathered said they would continue to attend.

It was the first time RAF Brize Norton had staged a double repatriation since it took on the responsibility from RAF Lyneham at the beginning of the month.

L Cpl McKinlay, 33, of 1st Battalion The Rifles, was killed by small arms fire while on patrol in Afghanistan last Wednesday.

Marine Fairbrother, of 42 Commando, was supporting the Afghan National Army when he was killed on Monday by small arms fire.

In a statement, the families said: “We are overwhelmed with the level of support shown by the people of Oxfordshire.”

More than 1,500 people stood silently as the hearses slowly made their way into the purpose-built memorial garden in Norton Way, Carterton.

Under the setting sun and with the Union flag flying at half-mast, the cortege came to a stop in front of the families.

They laid single red roses on the roof of the hearses and kissed the glass to say their final goodbye.

As the hearses began to move away, those gathered broke into a respectful applause.

One of those gathered was Rifleman Jake Watts, of First Battalion The Rifles. He was a friend of L Cpl McKinlay.

He said: “He was a good leader and was one of those people who would do anything for you.

“It still has not sunk in yet, but this is devastating.”

Victoria Howe, 61, of Bampton, said: “It is important for the families to see that they are supported by the local people.

“I will come to as many as I can – I think that is our duty.”

Marie Perrin, 45, of Carterton, said: “They are out there fighting for us, so they deserve respect from the public.

“They have done a good job out there and I will come to everyone of these.”

Royal British Legion member Steve Radband, whose role it is to look after the families on the day of the repatriations, said: “The level of support shown today for the families was absolutely fantastic.”

He said he was sure the people of Oxfordshire would continue to show their respect.

About 2,500 people turned out in Carterton, and 4,000 across the county when the body of Sgt Barry Weston, of 42 Royal Marine Commandos, was repatriated on September 8. He was killed by a homemade bomb in Afghanistan on August 30.

Brize Norton Parish Council chairman Keith Glazier said: “I’m delighted by the support shown to the families.

“Nothing makes it easier, but we hope they can draw some comfort from the support they have received today.”

Carterton mayor Norman MacRae said: “It was a moving tribute by the community in support of the fallen and their families.”

Father-of-three L Cpl McKinlay had been based in Afghanistan’s Helmand province since in June.

Marine Fairbrother, 24, from Blackburn, leaves his mother Julie, his older sister, Ruth, and girlfriend Melissa.

IN silent respect, long-retired servicemen stood and saluted men young enough to be their grandchildren, as their coffins reached the end of their repatriation journey.

For the 180th time since June 2008, veterans and members of the public gathered in Headley Way, Oxford, as the cortege bearing L Cpl Jonathan James McKinlay and Marine David Fairbrother reached the John Radcliffe Hospital yesterday evening.

Underneath a half-mast Union flag, the 250-strong crowd saluted, bowed their heads, or raised military standards as the hearses reached the final junction on a heartbreaking 40-minute journey from RAF Brize Norton.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, who was among the crowd, said: “These men have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

“Very often, these repatriations take place when Parliament is sitting and I cannot be here, so it is important I come when I can.

“They are very moving tributes to people who have given so much for the country.

“I find it always gives cause for thought.”

Diana Anderson, 74, from Barton, said: “It gets more difficult to watch the hearses go by each time.

“The soldiers are so young, and when you have grandchildren the same age as the ones who have been killed, it is such a shame.

“The ones that come back alive have military parades and medal ceremonies, but these can only come back to what the British public give them, which is why we are all here.”

And Royal British Legion county vice chairman, Jim Lewendon, 82, said: “This is just something we feel we want to do, to show we care what is going on in the world today.

“We want to give a silent, respectful tribute.”

Shankar Rai, one of five ex-Gurkhas paying tribute, added: “We have been here many times, because we have got to respect these heroes.”

The standard bearer of the Oxford branch of the Parachute Regiment Association, Mick Gallivan, 52, has now made badges for people who attend the repatriation ceremonies at the spot now known as the Final Turn.

The money raised from the badges helps fund refreshments for the hundreds who gather at St Anthony of Padua Church each time a repatriation cortege passes.

SHOWING the deepest respect and solemnity at yesterday’s double repatriation ceremony was 86 year-old Normandy veteran Robert Coupe who – with a chestful of medals – made a solitary 200-mile trip from his home near Blackpool to stand at the side of Old Witney Road, Eynhsam.

He said: “I’ve come to pay my respects to the lads who are fighting out in Afghanistan. I’m glad to do it, I shall come as often as I can.”

Supporting Mr Coupe as the cortege passed by at 6pm, was Eileen Trafford, from Eynsham.