Gallery: Fiancee sees war hero's coffin return

THE fiancee of Suffolk war hero Lance Corporal Adam Drane - who became the 100th British serviceman to die in the Afghanistan conflict this year when he was shot by a Taliban gunman - wept uncontrollably as she saw his coffin returned to the UK yesterday.

Jonathan Schofield

THE fiancee of Suffolk war hero Lance Corporal Adam Drane - who became the 100th British serviceman to die in the Afghanistan conflict this year when he was shot by a Taliban gunman - wept uncontrollably as she saw his coffin returned to the UK yesterday.Sian Goodenough, 17, was due to marry the soldier next year. She was among hundreds of people who lined the streets Wootton Bassett to pay their respects and bid farewell to him on a freezing, wet Wiltshire day.

The 23-year-old soldier of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglians was killed last Monday while carrying out security duties at checkpoint Paraang in Helmand province.

A total of 11 Royal Anglians - known as the Vikings - have now been killed in Afghanistan.

Under a slate grey sky and in freezing rain the body of the Bury St Edmunds-born Stanningfield soldier was flown back to RAF Lyneham to be reunited with his family just after 11am yesterday.

As a private service took place in the RAF chapel, soldiers, ex-servicemen and members of the public began lining the main street of the Wiltshire market town - a street now known as the Highway of Heroes.

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The moment the first bell tolled a respectful silence fell across the town. Shoppers stopped, schoolchildren in uniforms fell silent as people craned their necks to see the cortege.

As the hearse inched its way through the town it paused by the war memorial to allow Lance Corporal Drane's mother and father, Jacqueline and Des, his fianc�e Sian Goodenough, 17, who he was due marry next year, and other relatives and friends to place red and yellow roses on the hearse.

Many openly sobbed. Some simply stared in silence as the coffin of the soldier, draped in the Union Flag, passed by.

Flag-bearers lowered their flags as the cortege continued its journey through the town to Oxford.

Speaking on behalf of the family Captain Ian Robinson, welfare officer for the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, said Lance Corporal Drane was a “credit to his family, his regiment and a fine soldier.”

“His parents and brother will desperately miss him; this is a huge personal tragedy for them,” he said.

“He was a fine young soldier - always happy and extremely professional - who would have enjoyed a long career in the army - he really had a glittering career ahead of him. He had a huge amount of potential. He was typical of the great men who join our regiment and one of the best young leaders in our battalion.”

He said even though Lance Corporal Drane's death marked a milestone, every soldiers death is a “personal tragedy.”

Capt Robinson said the emphasis yesterday was on giving Lance Corporal Drane the send-off he deserved.

He added: “We are also making sure his friends and family are supported through what is a very difficult time for them.

“When a soldier is killed in the regiment, it brings the dangers home to the other families. We are just trying to help everyone through this. The soldiers still in Afghanistan must all focus on the mission and the job they've got to do.They will mourn him, but will go through a lot of the grieving process when they're back.''

Capt Robinson paid tribute to Lance Corporal Drane's family and the devotion they showed to their son.

“They loved him as much as he loved them - they were a very devoted family. He had so much to look forward to, especially his marriage to his fianc�e Sian next year.

This is a terrible tragedy for them and the many friends he had in his home village of Stanningfield. “He had been doing his job with great professionalism, looking after the younger, less experienced soldiers when he was tragically killed. His family were extremely proud of him just as we all were.”

Wootton Bassett - which has now become the epicentre of the nation's grief - has witnessed hundreds of these solemn processions as the bodies of British servicemen killed in Afghanistan are taken to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where post-mortem examinations are carried out.

Lance Corporal Drane had been serving in Afghanistan for eight weeks when he died.

He was employed with 6 Platoon, C Essex Company, and was responsible for commanding a four-man “fire team'' in one of the most challenging areas of Helmand province.

He was killed by enemy fire on December 7 as a result of small arms fire at a checkpoint.

The former schoolboy at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds, was described by headteacher Geoff Barton as an “utterly likeable and reliable” former student.