IT WAS a day of pure, raw, emotion.

The body of Golcar soldier Graham Shaw was back home.

And he returned home with full military honours, in a moving tribute that has been repeated, sadly, so many times in recent months.

Lance Cpl Shaw, who died on Monday just hours after his 27th birthday, was repatriated in a moving ceremony for his family at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

The aircraft flew low over the airfield in salute before landing.

A bearer party of his colleagues from the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment then carried his coffin, draped in a Union Jack, from the aircraft and into a hearse, before it was borne away for a private, emotional reunion with his parents Russ and Karen.

Mr Russ Shaw himself is a former Army regular and served for many years.

It was then time for the cortege bearing Lance Cpl Shaw to drive off to Wootton Bassett – the market town which has become the focus of public mourning.

As the hearse drew up at the traffic lights next to Wootton Bassett’s war memorial, the family of Lance-Corporal Shaw surged towards it.

They threw white roses and lovingly patted the funeral car containing the last remains of the Golcar man.

Some turned away in tears, while next to the family, the fallen soldier’s comrades saluted.

Just yards away, on the other side of the traffic lights in the Wiltshire market town, another family mourned.

The relatives of Corporal Liam Riley, 21, wept next to his coffin as all around the people of Wootton Bassett stood in silent respect for the latest two casualties of the Afghan War.

Lance-Cpl Shaw’s family appreciated the dignified tribute to him and his friend. Speaking just after his nephew’s hearse had left the town, his uncle Mick Dyson paid tribute to the people of this small town next to RAF Lyneham.

“We were absolutely moved to see the people of Wootton Bassett show their respect to the two lads from the Yorkshire Regiment who died fighting for their country,” he said.

For Lance-Cpl Shaw’s parents the ceremony must have been unbearable.

Mr Dyson, of Lindley, said: “They are absolutely distraught over losing their son. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a son.

“It’s always in the back of your mind that something will happen to him but you just hope that it won’t.”

Mr Dyson spoke of his happy, fun-loving nephew whose life was cut short by a roadside bomb on Monday.

He said: “The last memory that everyone will have of Graham will be his infectious laugh.

“No matter how sad you felt, when you met Graham you cheered up.”

Standing just yards from Lance-Cpl Shaw’s family in Wootton Bassett yesterday afternoon were his comrades. Lance-Cpl Lee Williamson served with the Golcar soldier for five years.

“He was a top bloke who loved his job. I’m going to miss him.”

The Barnsley man was relieved that his comrades were back home. “I’m glad he’s back on English soil. I’ve never been to a repatriation before and I’ve been dreading it.

“I know that this is inevitable but I never thought I would be here. It’s a sad day, I don’t want to be here, but I want to show support for him and his family.”

Dozens of soldiers, both serving and retired, came to Wootton Bassett yesterday for the latest repatriation. Among them was Derek Innes, who grew up on Fitzwilliam Street, Huddersfield.

The former Duke of Wellington’s soldier raised £24,000 for military charity Help for Heroes by rowing around Britain last year.

The 48-year-old said: “This is my first time in Wootton Bassett.

“I always wanted to attend a ceremony and I decided to come today to honour the Yorkshire soldiers.

“It’s nice that people have come to show their support. We lost lads in Northern Ireland but you very rarely heard about it. Afghanistan is in the news all the time.”

As the cortege approached just before 2pm, a hush fell over the crowd of several hundred and the church bell tolled. The elderly men of Wootton Bassett Royal British Legion took their positions at the side of the road and, on the command “up” from their president Morris Baker, they raised their standards.

Mr Baker was taking part in his 110th repatriation yesterday. He said: “It started three years ago when a few of our members happened to be on High Street when a hearse came through.

“We discussed it at our next branch meeting and then asked RAF Lyneham to let us know when the hearses were coming through so we could show our respects.

“There were only a couple of dozen of us the first time, but it’s evolved since then.”

The Wootton Bassett ceremony has become widely publicised in the last year, but Mr Baker believes nothing can capture the feeling of being there.

He said: “Those coming for the first time don’t realise how much emotion there is in the air. You can feel it building up.”

It’s a feeling shared by Steve Blundell of the Royal British Legion Riders’ Branch. He led a group of 30 motorcycling veterans to yesterday’s ceremony.

He said: “It’s a solemn, disturbing and eerie atmosphere. It’s unique.”

Though there were hundreds of mourners at yesterday’s ceremony, Mr Blundell would like to see many more.

“The only way to support the families is to be here, showing that you care.

“We will always be here to show our respect.”

As the families moved away from the coffins of their loved ones, applause broke out along High Street, from soldiers past and present, from police officers, from Legion members, from town criers, shopkeepers and ordinary town folk. And then the cortege passed from view and Wootton Bassett slowly returned to normal.

But, for two grieving families, nothing will ever be normal again.

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