THE family of Lance Corporal James Ashworth, killed in action in Afghanistan, showed dignity and strength as they paid a loving tribute to their hero son.
In a moving ceremony, the body of the 23-year-old from Corby was repatriated to RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on Thursday, June 21.
A former pupil of Lodge Park Technology College, in the town, Lance Corporal Ashworth, from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was killed in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province while on patrol with the Reconnaissance Platoon.
The young soldier, who joined the Army at just 17 and had already served with distinction, died trying to protect his men.
After the ceremony at the memorial garden, just outside the military base, his mum kerry, who lives in Corby, said: “I would like to thank all James’ friends, schoolfriends, members of his football team, the Army and the British Legion for all the support they have given and continue to give.
“I would also like to thank the people of Corby, neighbours, friends, workmates and the community in general for their support and comfort. Never have I felt so proud to be from Corby.
“I would also like to say that we are blessed to have Emily, James’ girlfriend, who will always be a part of our family.
“James was fun-loving, had a great sense of humour and was a true gentleman.
“He died doing what he loved and I supported him when he joined the Army, as I have supported all my children in what they have done.
“To be at the memorial ceremony and see everyone who attended has touched our hearts. It was so touching to see people who didn’t even know James paying their respects.
“All the British Legion volunteers who have treated us so well, also deserve our thanks.”
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster, a large military transport aircraft, touched down at RAF Brize Norton at 1.30pm, bringing home Lance Corporal Ashworth and Corporal Alex Guy, from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, who was also killed in Helmand Province last week.
Family members were given privacy to be with their loved ones in the chapel of rest on the base before the cortege began its slow journey to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, along a route where strangers, ignoring the wind and rain, turned out to pay their respects to the two fallen servicemen.
The two grieving families arrived at the memorial garden first and were given time to meet relatives and friends who had travelled to Carterton for the repatriation ceremony.
There were hugs, tears and words of comfort before two hearses, with their coffins draped in Union flags, arrived to a silent tribute as the standards of 18 branches of the British Legion were lowered in respect.
Among them was the standard of the legion’s Corby branch carried by its secretary Gareth Price.
After an afternoon which saw torrential rain, the sun broke through as family members and friends each gently placed a single yellow rose on the hearse. Lance Corporal Ashworth’s girlfriend Emily Duffin placed red roses.
Lance Corporal Ashworth’s dad Duane, 44, who was a Grenadier, said: “My son died a soldier’s death. He died a hero. I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. I was surprised when James said he wanted to join the Army but I was so proud when he joined the Guards, my old regiment.”
Lance Corporal Ashworth’s sisters Lauren and Paige and brothers Coran, 21, a soldier who is serving in Northern Ireland, and Karl, 19, paid tribute to their brother and thanked everyone for the support and kindness shown to the family.
Lauren said; “We would like to thank all our family and friends and everyone in Corby and here today who have been so kind.”
Karl added: “I always looked up to my brother. If ever anyone was bullying or bothering me he would stop them. He was a Corby lad through and through and was a really cool brother.”
Lance Corporal Ashworth’s funeral is to be held in Corby and arrangements will be announced at a later date.