Funeral tributes to Red Cap

MILITARY police joined hundreds of mourners at a small rural church as they paid tribute to their "invincible" colleague killed last month in southern Iraq.

(Corrected repetition, amending catchline)

FUNERAL TRIBUTES TO 'INVINCIBLE' RED CAP

By David Stringer, PA News

MILITARY police joined hundreds of mourners at a small rural church as they paid tribute to their "invincible" colleague killed last month in southern Iraq.


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Corporal Russell Aston, 30, was one of six Colchester-based members of 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police shot dead during protests in Al Majar al-Kabir, near Basra.

The soldiers had been defending a civilian police station which came under attack from local people angered by what they claimed were heavy-handed searches and the use of plastic bullets by troops.

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Corporal Aston, who left wife Anna, 31, and 17-month-old daughter Paygan, was known as a popular soldier and a committed father, who beamed with pride as he showed photographs of his child to colleagues in Iraq.

At St Mary's church in Coton in the Elms, the tiny Derbyshire village where he grew up, hundreds of friends and residents packed along sun-soaked pavements to pay their respects yesterday .

More than 100 family members and friends crowded into the small 19th Century church, while others stood among the floral tributes as they listened to the service on a loudspeaker relay.

Shortly after 1.25pm, the soldier's coffin, draped in the Union Flag and laden with his treasured red cap, white ceremonial belt and regimental bayonet, was carried by six military police colleagues from his unit.

Members of Royal British Legion branches from across the Midlands flanked the church with raised standards and fellow Red Caps formed a guard of honour as the funeral procession marched inside.

Wife Anna followed close behind, the couple's daughter clutched tightly to her body, with Corporal Aston's parents and family members.

Platoon commander Captain James Hibbert told the congregation: "To us Russ was invincible, surely no one like him could simply die.

"He seemed too quick, too strong and too full of life to die.

"He seemed impervious to danger, he was a loyal friend, an outstanding soldier and an exceptionally proud father.'

Corporal Aston's father Mike read from Viscount Montgomery's tribute to airborne forces, which concludes "they are simply men apart'.

Mr Aston, in a moving tribute to his son, said: "I shall always miss him and I shall never, ever get over his death.

"But I stand here today feeling 10 feet tall with pride because few will ever equal what he achieved.

"I love you, son, rest in peace.'

The bodies of all six military policemen were flown back to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire earlier this month.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has vowed that British forces are "not going to forget' their promise to find the men's killers.

The five other soldiers killed were Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, of Chessington, Surrey; Lance Corporal Ben Hyde, 23, of Northallerton, North Yorkshire; Corporal Paul Long, 24, from South Shields, South Tyneside; Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Weir and Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, 20, from Llanuwchyllyn, near Bala, Wales.

Two further funeral services will be held tomorrow and on Monday.

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