Poignant book remembers the Wootton Bassett repatriation journeys

Jarra Brown tells of the repatriation convoys to the UK

This touching book tells of what happened behind the scenes when those who dies in fighting were brought to the UK via Royal Wootton Bassett

A former policeman has written a touching book about the repatriation of service personnel killed in Afghanistan and whose journeys spurred the people of Wootton Bassett to stage their own admirable form of respect.

Jarra Brown now lives in Cyprus but the former Commando turned police officer has written ‘46 Miles – A Journey of Repatriation and Humbling Respect’ after becoming the police liaison officer between the military authorities and townspeople.

Jarra says: “My book, 46 Miles, is not a book about the politics of war, the whys and wherefores of the conflicts but about a town which captured the hearts of our nation and of people around the world and whose emotions carried along the entire 46 mile journey of honour, dignity and respect into Oxford.

“The book is dedicated to those 345 people who, having signed up to serve their Queen and country, paid with their lives. Wootton Bassett, which nurtured the grieving on every occasion, wanted to let the nation know that these heroes will never be forgotten.”

The book is entitled ’46 Miles’ because that’s the distance between the RAF Lyneham base and the mortuary in Oxford where the bodies of the late service personnel were taken. It is also the title of a poem written by an anonymous soldier about the repatriations.

The impromptu mark of respect by the people of Wootton Bassett – which was later given the title Royal for their involvement – for those killed was seen around the world as the townspeople welcomed 345 coffins in 168 repatriation convoys through their town. The cortege would stop at the town’s war memorial for families and well-wishers to pay their respects to the sound of a single church bell before the funeral procession went to Oxford.

Jarra added: “Even now when I hear church bells I cannot fail but remember the hundreds of coffins that passed through a beautiful rural Wiltshire town.”

His work in helping to organise the repatriation journeys began in March 2007 and by April the following year the numbers of people attending the silent vigil at the war memorial had grown hugely. In 2011, Jarra was awarded the MBE for his part in organising the journeys.

Jarra’s book ’46 Miles‘ is published by Menin House Publishers and available on Amazon.

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