Dereham soldier killed in Afghanistan is flown back home

The body of Dereham soldier Pte Lewis Hendry, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan, returned to Britain today.

Pte Hendry, who died last week three days before his 21st birthday, was one of five servicemen flown in to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, where private services were held for their families, who then placed flowers on their hearses.

Darkness had fallen as the procession of coffins, each with the Union flag draped over them, passed through nearby Wootton Bassett, en route to the Armed Forces department of pathology at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

As has become custom, hundreds of people joined families and friends in lining the High Street.

Pte Hendry, known as Lewy, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and Pte Conrad Lewis, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, were shot as they patrolled an area in the north of Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province.

The others repatriated were Pte Robert Wood and Pte Dean Hutchinson, who died in a fire, and L/Cpl Kyle Marshall, who was killed in an explosion.

Pte Hendry was a former pupil at Dereham Northgate High School and as mark of respect a two-minute silence was held today and the Last Post was played by Eloise Peek at the front of the school.

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Headteacher Paul Mitchell said: 'Our heartfelt sympathies are extended to all his family and friends at this sad time.'

His parents Katrina and Kelvin, older brother Jamie and younger sister Stacey said he had 'a true heart of gold' and 'a smile which lit up every room he walked in to.'

Pte Hendry's funeral service is likely to be in Dereham in early March.

A book of condolence has been opened on the school's website www.northgate.norfolk.sch.uk. There is a book in the school's foyer.

Bell-ringers at St Nicholas Church have offered to ring on the day of his funeral, and town councillors are prepa-ring to fly a flag at half-mast at the Market Place war mem-orial, where floral tri-butes have already been left.

On Saturday – which would have been Pte Hendry's 21st birthday – a huge number of people gathered in Dereham town centre and in Norwich for impromptu celebrations of his life.

An army liaision officer, who has visited the family every day, said: 'The family has been truly and utterly overwhelmed by the support shown by people in Dereham.'

He said the gatherings on Saturday highlighted how much Pte Hendry had meant to local people. 'A few people had been contacted to go out to say 'Happy birthday' and raise a pint for him but it roller-coastered from there and many people just wanted to come out to celebrate his life. It was phenomenal and a tribute to a hero of Dereham.'

Youth outreach worker Lyn Milns – known to many young people in Dereham as 'Why' said: 'I feel so sad that this young life was taken. I first met Lewis when I started in Northgate High School and he was 13 years old then.

'Over the years I have been a youth outreach worker and Street Pastor in Dereham, it was always a pleasure to see Lewis and his friends around the town. That smiley face is going to be missed by many.'

Meanwhile, David Cameron paid tribute to Pte Hendry as Prime Minister's Questions got under way yesterday afternoon (Wednesday).

He said the three servicemen recently killed were 'all brave soldiers who were serving in Afghanistan for the safety and security of British people.'

His sentiments were echoed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who added: 'All of these men showed extraordinary bravery and dedication.'