THE family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan say they appreciated the hundreds of people who turned out in Wootton Bassett to pay their respects.

Lance Corporal Kieron Hill of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) was killed in an explosion near Garmsir in Helmand province on Thursday.

His family, who fought back tears, said they felt “comforted” during the 74th repatriation in the Wiltshire town after the corporal became the 140th soldier to receive the send-off yesterday.

Two of his brothers are professional footballers.

In a statement, Kieron’s family said: “We are fully supportive of Kieron being in the army, fulfilling his ambitions since 13 years of age.

“He confidently thrived on the military environment, hitting his first promotion target as a 20-year-old.

“He was also very proud of his three brothers, Aaron at Nottingham Forest, Liam at Notts County and his younger brother Joshua.

“Kieron will be terribly missed by his whole family, relatives and friends.”

Wootton Bassett pensioner and granddad-of-two Dave Cousins, 76, is from the Grenadier Generals.

“It’s touching like it always is,” he said. “It’s incredible so many people turn out in high numbers time after time.”

Standard bearer Murray Whitcher, 72, who was in the RAF from 1955 to 59, said: “This is my first time seeing a repatriation and what a fitting ceremony it is.

“I live in Trowbridge and have been wanting to come to a repatriation for quite a while now.

“There’s not a lot you can do when someone dies, but this is something positive we can do.”

On-looker Peter Seares, added: “The sun might be shining but it must feel gloomy for the family who have lost a loved one in a son and brother. My heart goes out to them – it’s so sad.”

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Banton, Kieron’s commanding officer, said: “He was a charming and funny man – always ready with a joke and his sense of fun was irrepressible.

“His twin passions were the Mercian Regiment and Nottingham Forest Football Club.”

Another repatriation is expected to go ahead on Friday, although further details have not yet been released by RAF Lyneham.