Marine's body flown back home
The body of a Norfolk Marine who died fighting the Taliban on Christmas Eve was flown back to Britain yesterday.L/Cpl Ben Whatley, 20, who was killed by enemy fire as he led his men during an operation against insurgents in Helmand Province, was repatriated with full military honours along with fellow Marine Cpl Robert Deering, who died in action three days earlier.
The body of a Norfolk Marine who died fighting the Taliban on Christmas Eve was flown back to Britain yesterday.
L/Cpl Ben Whatley, 20, who was killed by enemy fire as he led his men during an operation against insurgents in Helmand Province, was repatriated with full military honours along with fellow Marine Cpl Robert Deering, who died in action three days earlier.
A guard of honour was waiting as the transport plane carrying their coffins landed at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.
A cortege then made its way through the streets of the nearby town of Wootton Bassett, which came to a standstill as crowds of people formed amid a busy day of shopping.
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The public tributes began spontaneously in Wootton Bassett when repatriation flights switched to RAF Lyneham from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire last year.
The cortege then proceeded to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where post-mortem examinations will be carried out.
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Last night the MoD said the men's bodies would be released to their families once an inquest into their deaths had been opened and adjourned.
L/Cpl Whatley, from Tittleshall, near Fakenham, was the 136th member of British forces personnel to die since operations began in Afghanistan and the 11th Royal Marine to die in 2008.
Defence secretary John Hutton said L/Cpl Whatley was “a superb Marine and an example to others”.
He served with the Plymouth-based 42 Commando Royal Marines, after completing a uniformed-services course at the College of West Anglia in King's Lynn.
Major Rich Cantrill, L/Cpl Whatley's commanding officer, said: “We will all miss Ben and the chance to watch him fulfil his tremendous promise. I will remember him as an ever-young commando, a fighter, a man's man, a Royal Marine to the core.”
His mother Teresa Whatley, 52, said the family had postponed Christmas until January 8, when L/Cpl Whatley was expected home on leave, at the halfway point in his second seven-month tour of Afghanistan.
“There was no way we could have had a proper family Christmas while he was away,” she said. “You never stop worrying when your son is away on tour. You are on edge for seven months because you never know if you are going to get a phone call or a visit to say something has happened. Now we have had the visit which we were dreading.”
L/Cpl Whatley was flown home alongside 33-year-old Cpl Deering who came from Birmingham and served with the Commando Logistic Regiment. He died on December 21 after a boobytrap bomb exploded.