British Town Honors War Dead With Silent Farewells

Impromptu silence as soldier's hearse passed grew into tradition
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2009 4:00 AM CDT
Old soldiers salute as the funeral cortege carrying the coffins of three British soldiers killed in Afghanistan passes through Wootton Bassett, England, earlier this year.    (AP Photo / Dominic Lipinski)
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(Newser) – A lone man's silent salute to a military hearse grew into a tradition that now involves thousands who line the streets of a small British town, the New York Times reports. The bodies of UK troops killed in Afghanistan pass through Wootton Bassett on the way from the nearby air base to a military morgue, and the entire town falls silent to pay tribute as the hearses pass.

Villagers say the displays of respect, which include many military veterans, grew naturally after the first man's salute. They insist they're just doing what anybody else would do. A Royal Air Force veteran said battalions returning from war are given parades welcoming them home. “But these lads have nothing,” he said. “This is their parade.” (Read more Britain stories.)