A community turned out to pay its respects to a fallen soldier as he was finally laid to rest in his home town of Buxton 50 years after his death.
Thomas William Checkley was repatriated to Buxton after dying in Vietnam in August 1966 while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force Paratroop regiment.
A military internment took place at Buxton Cemetery today (Monday) and more than 60 people attended the service.
Thomas’s nephew, Christian Taylor, said: “I can’t believe so many people have turned up. We thought there would be just a handful of people.
“My grandma’s wish was that someone in the family would go and see his grave and because of the Australian government he has finally come home.”
Mourners who attended the grave-side service included four standard bearers from the Buxton, Hayfield and Long Eaton branches of the Royal British Legion, as well as The National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association, soldiers from Nottinghamshire’s 162 Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps and a representative from Australia’s defence force.
Thomas grew up in Buxton - his parents owned Ye Olde Sun Inn pub on High Street - and in 1965 moved to Australia.
He died after fracturing his skull falling from a military vehicle while on army manoeuvres in South Vietnam in 1966, aged just 28.
Thomas’ body was interred at Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia, but his remains have now been repatriated as part Operation Reunite, an initiative organised through the Australian government.
The Rev Carl Edwards, who led the service, said: “There was a wonderful turnout which speaks volumes about the strength of community in Buxton and the surrounding area as people did not want him to be buried without first acknowledging his sacrifice.”
Representing Australia was Lieutenant Colonel Price, who flew in specially for the interment.
He said: “It is vital that we keep remembering those who died while on duty. Every death hurts a family and every death should be honoured.
“We are thankful for everything Gunner Checkley did for his country and this service is a recognition of his greatest sacrifice.”