Gunners' bodies flown home

The bodies of two servicemen from an East Anglian airbase killed in an insurgent mortar attack in Iraq were flown back to England yesterday.

The bodies of two servicemen from an East Anglian airbase killed in an insurgent mortar attack in Iraq were flown back to England yesterday.

Matthew Caulwell and Pete McFerran were 1 Squadron RAF Regiment gunners from RAF Honington, near Thetford.

Families, friends, and colleagues of the senior aircraftsmen gathered to pay their respects and collect the coffins from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.

A Hercules carrier carried out a flypast over the airfield just after 9am and touched down at around 9.15am.

Each flag-draped coffin was carried off the aircraft by a group of six men to the Last Post, while guests looked on. Shortly after, the coffins were placed in hearses and returned to the families.

The RAF gunners were killed at their airbase in Basra, along with a third senior aircraftsman, Christopher Dunsmore of 504 Squadron Auxililary Airforce based at RAF Cottesmore in the Midlands, who had been attached to 1 Squadron since August, when they came under attack from a rocket attack.

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The Ministry of Defence revealed they had been resting from their duties, protecting planes flying from the British contingency operating base in southern Iraq, before heading out on another patrol when they were killed by roadside militia.

Other servicemen, including RAF Honington members were injured, but their names, and further details, have not been released.

SAC Matthew Caulwell, 22, from Birmingham had served with 1 Squadron since 2002. He was described as a “true character and true professional” and had been promoted to Acting Corporal.

SAC Peter McFerran, 24, from Connahs Quay, Flintshire, North Wales, was a heavy machine gun operator and had followed his father into the RAF regiment in 2004. Colleagues described him as “the epitome of an RAF regiment gunner, strong robust and loyal.”

Yesterday, as his father Robert McFerran paid tribute to the son he had received a birthday card from two days after the fatal attack, he asked the prime minister to begin withdrawal of troops.

He said: “I think it about time Mr Brown bring the troops home. With the end of the Blair era, hopefully we can draw a line under the past and start getting personnel home.”

The Honington deaths are the Suffolk base's first casualties in the Middle East since 2003, and last week tributes were laid at the base entrance and flags flown at half mast.

A memorial service will be held when 1 Squadron regiment returns from its tour of duty in September.

The body of L/Cpl Timothy “Daz” Flowers, 25, from the Corps of Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, who died from his injuries when he was hit by shrapnel in an attack on Basra, was also returned on the plane.

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