VETERANS honouring the return of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan during the rescue of a kidnapped Irish journalist questioned the mission yesterday, as crowds lined the streets in tribute.
Corporal John Harrison, 29, of the Parachute Regiment, was killed in a daring pre-dawn operation on September 9 to rescue Stephen Farrell, a New York Times reporter.
His body was flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire in the south-west of England yesterday morning, alongside that of Jason Dunn-Bridgeman, 20, who died in a firefight in southern Afghanistan on Sunday.
The New York Times said Stephen Farrell’s interpreter, Sultan Munadi, who was kidnapped with him, was also killed in the rescue effort.
After a private repatriation ceremony for the British soldiers families, hearses carrying their coffins draped with the Union Jack passed crowds lined along Wootton Bassett high street.
Cpl Harrison, believed to have been a member of the elite Special Forces Support Group, was described by his family as “a wonderful son, brother and a dedicated soldier”.
Yesterday, the town was divided on whether it was right that valued troops should be sent in to pluck “selfish” Mr Farrell out.
Chris Wannell, 68, a Wootton Bassett town councillor said: “I think it was a very brave decision to go in and save the man who had gone in there against advice.
“Really the media man was very selfish to do that. There are times when we have to listen to advice and take that advice.”
Mr Wannell, formerly of the county fire brigade, also criticised recent reports that the town should be renamed Royal Wootton Bassett.
“We don’t want it,” he said. “We don’t do this for recognition, but out of respect for the fallen. That’s the view of most people in this town.”
John North, 72, himself an army veteran, said of Mr Farrell’s rescue: “I don’t think they should have gone in there to get him out. I think he put himself in a position of danger and the men were put in the same predicament. That one man lost his life was unnecessary. I feel very strongly.
“I’ve been coming here from the start to support the lads who fight for us. They don’t get the recognition they deserve or the support they deserve.”
But Jack Craig, 67, an air dispatch veteran felt the troops were right to rescue Mr Farrell. “That’s his job,” Mr Craig said. “They are there to do a job and make it safe for us to live in this country.”
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