The repatriation of two soldiers through Royal Wootton Bassett on Thursday 2 June was marked by the strangest incident in the four years they have been taking place, when a relative of Samuel Giles William Alexander MC stepped out from the crowd to pour a can of Stella Artois under the wheels of the hearse carrying his coffin, whilst another placed a beer can on the roof amongst the floral tributes.
Swindon freelance photographer Richard Wintle, who took the picture, said, "it was bizarre to see the two women paying tribute with a lager when all around were solemn and saluting the dead marines. Having seen the MoD picture of Sam Alexander enjoying a Stella, I can only assume he liked his off duty refreshment and they thought it was a fitting way to remember him."
Marine Alexander, 28, from Juliet Company 42 Commando Royal Marines, was killed on Friday 27 May with his platoon commander Lieutenant Oliver Richard Augustin from Kent. The Ministry of Defence said they were engaged in a mission to disrupt insurgent activity in the Loy Mandeh area of Helmand province at the time of the explosion.
In 2009, Marine Alexander was awarded the Military Cross by the Queen for his bravery in charging down a group of insurgents to draw fire away from an injured colleague. The citation for his award said he carried out his brave actions "despite being completely exposed to heavy and accurate enemy fire".
Repatriations through Wootton Bassett will end by September when flights carrying soldiers killed in action to RAF Lyneham will be transferred to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. The town which has been awarded the Royal prefix by the Queen will receive its warrant in a special visit attended by a member of the Royal family in the Autumn.
Read tributes to the two men at http://fallenheroes.org.uk
Was my son’s death in Afghanistan a price worth paying? Sam Alexander’s father Stuart asked the question in a moving tribute in The Independent on 28 May
Photos, Richard Wintle, Calyx, 41 Churchward Avenue Swindon SN2 1NJ +44 (0) 1793 520131