THE grandfather of a Gurkha killed in Afghan-istan said the support from the people of Oxfordshire has filled him with pride.

Some 600 people gathered in the rain at the memorial garden, in Norton Way, Brize Norton, yesterday to pay their respects to Rifleman Vijay Rai.

The soldier, of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, was killed by a single gunshot wound on October 15. He was 31 and just days from completing his tour of duty.

His grandfather, Milan Rai, who had travelled from Nepal to attend the repatriation, said: “It is a sad day, but looking at the support from the British Army and from the local people, we are very proud.”

About 30 Gurkhas, including members of Rifleman Rai’s regiment, attended the ceremony to pay their respects.

Ongchhu Sherpa, of Rifleman Rai’s regiment, said: “It is a very sad moment because we have lost one of our best friends.”

Omraj Gurung, of The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, said: “His personality was great – always a good player, a hard worker and someone who just made everyone smile.”

Bhuwan Limbu, of The Queen’s Gurkha Signals, said: “We came here just to see our proud friend, who did a great job for us.”

As the cortege carrying Rifleman Rai’s body reached the memorial garden, from RAF Brize Norton, those gathered fell silent and the standards were lowered.

The cortege came to a stop in front of Rifleman Rai’s family and former colleagues, who placed flowers on the hearse.

And then, as has now become a custom, the crowd respectfully applauded as the cortege drove away, en-route to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

At Headley Way, in Headington, around 50 people gathered at the Final Turn to see the cortege arrive at the hospital for a post-mortem examination.

Amongst them was 92-year-old May Blewett, of Headington, who had attended almost every single repatriation in the past three years. She said: “I wanted to show my gratitude that my three brothers came home alive from the Second World War.

“They and my husband went abroad to fight and returned, so I want to come here and pay my respects to those that don’t.”