THE people of Wootton Bassett paid their final respects to a young soldier during a repatriation ceremony in the town.

Hundreds of people turned out yesterday to salute Signaller Wayne Bland, from 16 Signal Regiment.

The 21-year-old died in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, August 11.

He was providing cover while travelling in a convoy of vehicles undertaking a route familiarisation patrol, when they were attacked by a suicide bomber.

The attacker rammed his vehicle into the patrol and detonated an explosive device, which wounded Signaller Bland and two other soldiers from 16 Signal Regiment.

Sig Bland, from Leeds, who was was single and had no children, was a passionate football player and Leeds fan His family said in a statement: “Wayne was a much-loved son, grandson, brother and uncle who served his country with distinction and sadly paid the ultimate price. He was our true hero.”

Pensioner Tony Perkins, 75, from Longleaze, in Wootton Bassett, was one of the many who lined the streets.

The retired Naval officer said: “It’s so sad to see and difficult to know what to say in such devastating circumstances.”

Mayor Mike Leighfield said: “It is so tragic, I feel for the family so much.

“I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye to another soldier but as long as we do we will honour them.”

Margaret Watts, a great-grandmother of 10, said: “I have been to virtually every repatriation. It brings you to tears.”

Wootton Bassett mother Chris Chandler added: “It is a very sad day. I have two sons myself and can’t imagine losing either of them.”

Lieutenant Colonel Justin Hodges, the Commanding Officer for 16 Signal Regiment, said: “Wayne was a superb soldier, full of character and a highly popular member of 16 Signal Regiment.

“He joined the regiment from training as a driver lineman in September 2006 and instantly fitted in, as only a ‘Liney’ knows how – with a laugh and huge sense of fun.

“Wayne’s death is a huge tragedy, but he was a committed soldier who understood the risks and the importance of his work, as do his friends and every soldier in the regiment.”