Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Where Have all the Soldiers Gone?

The grief-stricken Girlfriend of Rifleman Daniel Hume, Sasha Buckley, watches the procession pass through Wootton Bassett.

With its cricket field, pubs and a centuries-old church. Wootton Bassett seems to be a picturesque village, typical of an old English town in all respects but one: Every corpse that returns from Britain's wars abroad passes through it.

In what has become a public show of respect. Wootton Bassett is near Royal Air Force Lyneham, the base to which the country's war dead are returned. Starting about two years ago, townspeople began gathering for the processions of each soldier as the body, in a flag-draped casket, was moved from Lyneham to a coroner's office in Oxford.The first processions were attended by just a dozen saluting war veterans. Crowds recently have swelled to the thousands. Now, the repetition of these sad processions is testing the U.K. public's patience for the war -- and throwing up another potential obstacle to continued support for U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan.
In recent weeks the convoy of coffins through Wootton Bassett has turned from a trickle to a stream, as U.K. troops join the U.S.-led surge in southern Afghanistan. The recent rise in casualties -- 15 soldiers died in 10 days -- is now raising new questions about Britain's continued role.

Yesterday Tuesday, an estimated 7,000 people gathered in the beautiful sunshine on the town's High Street to pay their respects to the bodies of eight soldiers who were killed in one 24-hour period late last week. A solitary church bell tolls, the road is closed off, and an undertaker steps out of a hearse to lead the procession. As the eight bodies passed, relatives and friends hold each other in tight embraces, tears fall, and a round of applause follows the coffins down the road.

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

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