OXFORDSHIRE gathered to pay its respects to a fallen soldier as he returned to the UK for the final time yesterday.

The body of Mathew Talbot of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was flown into the Brize Norton base and driven through the county to the John Radcliffe Hospital, where an autopsy will take place.

The 22-year-old had been in the African country of Malawi on his first deployment, taking part in an anti-poaching mission, when he was reportedly crushed by an elephant.

Veterans from numerous conflicts and council leaders gathered at the St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, by the entrance to the hospital, to pay their respects.

Graham Whelan, the Parade Marshall, who has been at more than 450 repatriations in Oxford, said: “It is a mark of respect. Everybody has got a mother and a father and we want them to know we are thinking of them.

“To be honest I had no idea that we had people out there on anti-poaching patrols until I heard about this young lad’s death at the weekend.

“It is active duty and it was his first deployment.

“I served for two and half years in Northern Ireland during the troubles and I know it could have been me coming home in a body bag.”

A daffodil will now be placed on a plaque at the hospital to commemorate the death.