The bodies of five British servicemen from RAF Odiham killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan were repatriated to the UK in a poignant ceremony on Tuesday (May 6).

Hundreds of people gathered in the sunshine at Carterton, Oxon, to pay their respects to the fallen personnel as they returned to British soil.

Captain Thomas Clarke, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters, from RAF Odiham, died when a Lynx helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on Saturday April 26.

A fifth serviceman on board the aircraft, Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, was also killed in the crash.

The aircraft went down in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar, in what is said to have been the worst incident involving a British military helicopter in Afghanistan since the war began there in 2001.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has denied claims by the Taliban that insurgents shot the helicopter down, with initial investigations indicating a "tragic accident" rather than enemy action as the cause of the crash.

More than 1,000 mourners - including serving personnel, schoolchildren and local residents - stood in silence on Norton Way for one of the largest repatriations the small town has seen.

At 1.30pm, the five servicemen were flown into RAF Brize Norton, where a private ceremony for close relatives took place.


Family members lined the road on Norton Way, clutching flowers including red and white roses, lilies, brightly coloured tulips and yellow daffodils.

The street fell silent at 4.52pm, when the bell tolled to mark the arrival of the servicemen's families at the Memorial Garden.

All five families threw flowers on top of the hearses, with some mourners touching the glass and hearses as they wept.

Five minutes later, the coffins, draped with Union flags, were then driven to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The helicopter in which the men were travelling at the time of crash is believed to have been from AAC 657 Squadron, a top unit based at RAF Odiham which provides support and transport for special forces troops.

The crash caused the third biggest single loss of life of British troops since the conflict in Afghanistan began and brought the total number of service personnel killed there to 453.

The incident equalled the previous worst disaster involving a British helicopter, when a Lynx aircraft crashed in Basra City, Iraq, in May 2006 killing the five service personnel on board.