Hundreds lined Wootton Bassett’s High Street to honour one of the highest ranking British soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan as he was repatriated.

Major Sean Birchall, pictured, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, died in an explosion while on patrol near Lashkar Gah in central Helmand province on June 19.

The 33-year-old’s wife Joanna said he was a “wonderful husband” and“devoted father” to 18-month-old son Charlie. His body was flown through RAF Lyneham and a private ceremony held at the base at midday yesterday before a procession through Wootton Bassett.

Around 700 people including British Legion veterans, shopkeepers and dignitaries held their sombre silence as they lined the street and lowered their heads as the man’s cortege passed through.

Steve Bucknell, Mayor of Wootton Bassett, said: “We have strong links with the armed forces because RAF Lyneham is so close. The threat of it closing in 2012 makes us appreciate it even more in financial terms and also in terms of our society.

“Today another repatriation of someone who was killed in Helmand proceeds. It’s a very sombre feeling.

“Their contribution is valued. Not everyone here may agree with why they are there but that doesn’t matter, we appreciate what they are doing for us.”

Former lance sergeant James Archer, 58, who served with the 2nd Battalion Scottish Guards, said: “I’m here to honour the soldier being brought back as a mark of respect to them and their families to show they are not alone.

“It’s important for the public to remember what these troops are doing, putting their lives on the line.”