UNITED in grief, a family wept as the Union Flag-draped coffin of a hero soldier was returned to British soil from Afghanistan yesterday.
In a solemn tribute to a brave soldier, loved ones of Corporal Steven Dunn stood silently as the serviceman’s body was driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett.
The 27-year-old died on December 21 in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
The paratrooper from Gateshead was the 347th member of the United Kingdom’s armed forces to die in Afghanistan since operations began there in 2001.
Yesterday, hundreds lined the streets of the Wiltshire town as his funeral cortege brought its streets to a standstill.
As the serviceman’s relatives wept and held tissues to their eyes, one placed a black and white Newcastle United scarf on the hearse when it passed slowly by. Colleagues from the Parachute Regiment, in uniform and wearing their iconic red berets, they saluted the cortege as veterans lowered standards.
The 27-year-old, known among colleagues for being “always in the thick of it”, was killed when his Jackal vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Bowri desert.
The signaller, of the 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, attached to 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment Battlegroup, leaves his wife Cheryl and daughter Emily Ann.
His family paid tribute to him, issuing a statement that said he left “a huge hole in the lives of those he has left behind”.
It added: “He lived for the army, especially 216 Parachute (Signal) Squadron, and worked hard to get his wings, of which he was very proud.
“It was his first love after Cheryl and Newcastle United. We are all immensely proud of all that he achieved in his short life. He died doing a job he loved and excelled at.”
Cpl Dunn deployed to Afghanistan in September and was on his third tour of the country.
His job was demanding and involved providing radio and satellite links to the battle group.
His superiors said he was earmarked for promotion and had a bright future ahead. His body was flown into RAF Lyneham early yesterday afternoon.