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Brize's pride in repatriations role
THE church bell tolled and villagers in Brize Norton again made their way to the road side on Thursday to pay respects to three fallen servicemen.
Brize Norton is the only village in Oxfordshire the repatriation cortege from RAF Brize Norton passes directly through on its way to Oxford.
And it is playing its part in ensuring the fallen are not forgotten.
For each of the 45 repatriations in the past year about 100 residents have solemnly stood along Station Road or in their front gardens.
On Thursday, they paid their respects to Lance Corporal Duane Groom, 32, of The Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18 and Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, both of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (3YORKS).
Phil Holmes, church warden of St Britius Church, has produced books of remembrance to remind villagers about the loss to the country.
One book lists all 430 service personnel that have died in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, and the other contains write ups for each serviceman repatriated to RAF Brize Norton in the last year.
Dr Holmes said: “The whole idea is to encourage people to think about what has happened and the consequences of it.
“You have got people laying down their lives for this country.”
As well as the books, Dr Holmes also opens the church during repatriation ceremonies to provide a place of quiet reflection and meditation.
He added: “The village has responded to repatriations in exactly the way you might expect.
“When we ring the church bell it is amazing how everyone in the village turns out. That bell is the signal and the whole street is lined with people.”
Joy Douglas, 78, tolls the village’s St Britius Church bell for up to 15 minutes, from the family leaving RAF Brize Norton to the cortege passing through the village.
She said: “I feel that if I can do something to help the families I should.
“We are very proud to do it – it is my part of showing our concern for them.”
Mrs Douglas added: “People in the village tell me they feel quite low on Thursdays because that is someone’s son, brother or father passing through.
“I think that is why everyone tries to do something.”
Brize Norton Parish Council chairman Keith Glazier said: “I am immensely proud of the reaction from the village and the support they are offering to the families.
“People in Brize Norton are now very, very conscious of what is happening in Afghanistan and those young servicemen who are brought back.”
Most residents gather along Station Lane by The Chequers, including children from Brize Norton Primary School and about half a dozen standard bearers from the Royal Marine Association.
Although Brize Norton is the only village the cortege passes directly through, villagers from Minster Lovell, Eynsham and Cassington line the A40 as the hearses make their way to the John Radcliffe Hospital .