Bodies of three soldiers back home
Published 29/07/2010 | 20:32
The families of two hero soldiers who were killed while saving a wounded comrade in Afghanistan wept as their bodies were returned to British soil on Thursday.
Corporal Matthew Stenton, of The Royal Dragoon Guards, and Lance Corporal Stephen Monkhouse, of 1st Battalion Scots Guards, were shot dead by a Taliban gunman as they raced to help the injured soldier in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, on July 21.
They were repatriated alongside Sapper Mark Antony Smith, of 36 Engineer Regiment, who was killed in a suspected "friendly fire" incident. He had been serving with the Counter-IED Task Force in the Sangin area of Helmand when he died on Monday.
The Ministry of Defence is investigating his death and said a smoke shell, designed to provide cover for soldiers working on the ground, "may have fallen short of its intended target".
The men's bodies were flown to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, where their families held a private ceremony.
The cortege then passed through nearby Wootton Bassett, where it has become tradition for hundreds of shopkeepers, residents and visitors to gather in silence as each fallen serviceman is repatriated.
United in grief and pride, friends and family placed flowers on the hearses carrying the Union flag-draped coffins before they paused for a minute's silence.
Corporal Stenton, 23, known as Matty, leaves behind his father and stepmother, Michael and Gillian, and his sister, Charlotte.
His family were too upset to talk, but following his death said in a statement: "Matthew always took life in his stride and never lost sight of the important things in life - his family and friends. Matthew died how he lived his life, surrounded by his friends. We are so proud of Matthew and it comes as no surprise to us to hear that he died whilst trying to help one of his fellow comrades."
Lance Corporal Monkhouse's family also paid tribute in a statement, saying: "Although Stephen died in very tragic circumstances, it is comforting to know that he died doing a job he loved - being a soldier."