Independent staff association for regular, reserve and veteran UK armed forces personnel

Chicken curry and a taste of real patriotism with the Muslim mourners of Wootton Bassett

"In a few silent moments, these two shy, unassuming grandparents had done more for national race relations and inter-faith solidarity than a legion of box-ticking equality commissars."

By Robert Hardman, Daily Mail, 11 January 2010

As far as they are concerned, there was nothing remotely remarkable about their trip in to town. They had heard the news. They knew what was coming. And earlier this week they did what they always try to do if they happen to be at home.

They made the ten-minute walk to the High Street and joined their friends and neighbours on the pavement to pay silent tribute to two more young lives cut tragically short, two more extended families for whom New Year can never be happy again.

It was colder than usual, but the couple wrapped up well. They knew they would be waiting on the kerb for an hour or two - not ideal when you're suffering from arthritis.

So they popped in and out of a bank to warm up. But there was no question of going home just because the temperature had plummeted.

Finally, at around 2.15pm, the bell at St Bartholomew's Church tolled the arrival of the hearses carrying Kent-born, Leeds-loving Rifleman Aidan Howell, 19, and Sapper David Watson, 23, from Whickham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

They had just been repatriated to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and were on their way to their final resting places via the neighbouring town of Wootton Bassett where, for more than two years, the residents have taken it upon themselves to salute every single returning coffin.

Once again, the crowds paid their heart-wrenchingly simple tribute - silence followed by solemn applause - while relatives threw flowers, hugged each other or just stared uncomprehendingly at their worst nightmare being played out before them.

Then this purposeful but gentlest of crowds slowly dispersed, the locals to get on with their business, the visitors to rebuild their lives. And it never once occurred to Abdul and Samina Latif that they had done anything worthy of note - until they opened the papers the following day.

Because, in a few silent moments, these two shy, unassuming grandparents had done more for national race relations and inter-faith solidarity than a legion of box-ticking equality commissars.

 

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Welcome to British Armed Forces Federation - BAFF - independent all-ranks staff association for members of any branch of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force, including the reserves. All current UK service personnel of any rank are eligible to join and, as BAFF is not a political organisation, to take an active part in its activities if they wish. Former regular or reserve forces personnel are also very welcome.