Mourners line streets of Wootton Bassett for servicemen killed by rogue soldier

July 20, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

The tearful daughter of a Gurkha soldier killed in cold blood by a rogue Afghan soldier in Afghanistan today placed yellow roses on the hearse carrying her hero father.

Brave eight-year-old Eva Pun was hoisted above the crowd of mourners with her brother Aadi, just four, by their devastated mother Durga.

The touching scene unfolded as hundreds lined the streets to pay tribute to four soldiers killed in Afghanistan – including the three Gurkhas slain by traitorous Talib Hussein.

Maj James ‘Josh’ Bowman, 34, became the second highest ranking soldier to die in Afghanistan after Hussein shot him as he slept in his tent.

Lt Neal Turkington, 26, and Cpl Arjun Purja Pun, 33, were killed just minutes later when Hussein, 23, fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the base’s command centre.

Marine Matthew Harrison, 23, died in a field hospital later the same day, just one day before his 24th birthday, after he was wounded in a firefight while on foot patrol.

The deaths last Tuesday brought the number of British servicemen and woman killed in Afghanistan to 318. This total has increased to 322 in the last week.

The four bodies were today flown back to a private ceremony at RAF Lyneham, Wilts., before being driven past tearful mourners in Wootton Bassett.

Cpl Pun’s wife Durga lifted their children Eva, eight, and son Aadi, four, so they could place flowers on their father’s hearse.

Cpl Pun’s sister Kriti Pun, 20, said: ”I just want to say he was an amazing soldier. Before he went to the war I asked him should you really be going there?

”He said ‘I have been in this service for 15 years and this is my duty.’ I am proud of him.”

Gurkha Pte Pirthraj Thapa, 25, who lost his left leg in Afghanistan to a mine, was wheeled up to Cpl Pun’s hearse to lay flowers.

He said: ”I came here to pay my respects to Arjun.”

Maj Marc Briggs, 32, from Shrivenham, Oxfords., paid tribute to Maj Bowman as a ”gentleman” and described the manner of his death as ”tragic”.

He said: ”I served underneath Josh as his second in command when we served in the light infantry together in Edinburgh. We also served together in Syria and Iraq.

”Josh was a true gentleman – a unique character in the battalion and a really good officer. We had a lot of fun together.

”The circumstances of how he was killed are incredibly tragic. I feel so sorry for his family.”

Maj Bowman, from Salisbury, Wilts., served with 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles and is survived by his girlfriend Lucy.

He was killed in his sleeping quarters in Patrol Base 3 in the Nahr-e Saraj district, near Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah, last Tuesday.

Maj Bowman is the most senior member of British forces to die in Afghanistan since Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe was killed by a roadside bomb last July.

Lt Turkington, from Craigavon, Northern Ireland, and Cpl Pun, from Khibang, Nepal, also served with 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Cpl Pun is survived by his wife Durga and their two children.

British special forces have now launched a massive manhunt for Talib Hussein, the rogue Afghan National Army soldier believed to be responsible for the atrocity.

Royal Marine Matthew Harrison, who served with 40 Commando and lived in Hemel Hempstead, Herts., was mortally wounded in a firefight later the same day.

The four bodies were flown back to the UK by a Hercules plane, which landed at RAF Lyneham, Wilts., at around 11am.

A procession then made its way along the A3102, the road now dubbed the ‘Highway for Heroes,’ following a private memorial service for families at the base.

Wootton Bassett was brought to a silent standstill at 2.45pm as their coffins, draped in Union Jack flags, passed slowly through the town.

In a show of solidarity Gurkha families broke with tradition and flowers onto all four hearses – not just the vehicle containing Cpl Arjun’s coffin.

Mourners stood for a five minute silence as the hearses stopped at the town’s war memorial where regimental banners were lowered and church bells rang in respect.

Following the moving ceremony the vehicles continued up the High Street en route to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Among the mourners was Lucy Milford, 32, from Bath, Somerset, who attended the repatriation to pay tribute to her close friends Maj Bowman and Lt Turkington.

She said: ”Josh would have really loved the fact that everyone is out here and to go out in style. He was a real English gentleman and a massive support to me personally.

”I knew Neal as well who was a great laugh – a lovely, lovely person who was always smiling.

”I can’t quite believe that they’ve gone in this way because it was such a cowardly way.

”They wouldn’t have even been able to defend themselves but I know that they loved the Army and were proud soldiers.”

Captain Yubaraj Garbuja was Cpl Pun’s brother-in-law and serves with 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

He said: ”Cpl Arjun was truly honest and a very loyal man. When I was in Nepal we played together as children.

”When I heard that he had died on operations so suddenly I was very sad. I’m over here to pay respect to his peaceful life and to his wife and children.”

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  1. Susan Riddell says:

    I knew Major James Joshua Bowman as Scot, we meet in the year 2000-01-? Sadly we lost in touch with each other, he tryed tryed to contact me over the years, I had moved home, lost my mobile number. his tragic loss is beyond words, I cant believe he has gone, I will never forget him, my heart is broken,my god, he will always be in my heart and my thoughts he was gorgeous with a lovely smile, he always liked people to dress up,

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