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17 November 2011, 12:11
The family of a TA soldier from South Yorkshire, killed in Afghanistan, today thanked the hundreds of people who turned out to pay their respects as his body was brought back to the UK.
Private Matthew Thornton, from 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, was killed just 48 hours before Remembrance Day.
Today, his body was flown to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and about 200 people gathered at a memorial garden near the airbase to pay their respects.
The 28-year-old's loved ones had placed white roses on the roof of the hearse before movingly touching the glass with their hands.
Afterwards the crowd erupted into a spontaneous round of applause and one family member - believed to be the soldier's father - thanked everyone.
He said: "Thank you so much, thank you.''
Pte Thornton, who had re-enlisted in the TA to serve in Afghanistan, was killed in a bomb blast on November 9.
At the time of his death, his family said the incident would leave "a huge hole in all our lives'' and described him as "a dedicated soldier'' who was "passionate about the job''.
A keen snowboarder, Pte Thornton, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, joined the Territorial Army in 2004.
He left briefly in 2007 but re-enlisted in 2009, volunteering his services for deployment to Afghanistan.
Away from the army, he worked for Yorkshire-based company Premdor, manufacturing door and window frames.
In a statement his family - father Michael, mother Susan, sister Sarah, and brother Nathan - said: "Matthew was a dedicated soldier and passionate about the job. He loved what he was doing.
"He loved life and lived it to the full - in his work, in his role with the Territorial Army and in his leisure time.
"Matthew will be greatly missed by his family, his TA colleagues and his friends. His death leaves a huge hole in all our lives.''
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Crowley MC, commanding officer, 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, paid tribute to a "fine soldier and even finer man''.
He said: "Private Matthew Thornton displayed that he had the volunteer ethos in spades. He was a fine soldier and an even finer man.''
Pte Thornton deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment in October this year.
He was patrolling with a small group of soldiers when they were caught in an attack involving small arms fire and grenades. As Pte Thornton responded he was caught in a bomb blast and died.
His death took the number of British personnel who have died since operations began in Afghanistan in 2001 to 385.
Yesterday, a soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, who was serving with the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in an explosion in Helmand province.