VIDEO: A hero’s welcome for repatriated soldier laid to rest in Buxton

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.

The reburial of Buxtonian Thomas Checkley who died while serving with the Australian army in Vietnam in 1966.

The reburial of Buxtonian Thomas Checkley who died while serving with the Australian army in Vietnam in 1966.

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.

Photo of Gunner Thomas William Checkley in service,  submitted by John Winterbotham.

Photo of Gunner Thomas William Checkley in service, submitted by John Winterbotham.

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.”

Last week's Buxton Advertiser front page featuring Gunner Thomas William Checkley.

Last week's Buxton Advertiser front page featuring Gunner Thomas William Checkley.

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.”

A representative from Australia's defence force was among those in attendance at Buxton Cemetery.

A representative from Australia's defence force was among those in attendance at Buxton Cemetery.

Thomas Checkley was originally from Buxton and still has family who live locally.

Thomas Checkley was originally from Buxton and still has family who live locally.

Legion standards are lowered as a mark of respect.

Legion standards are lowered as a mark of respect.

The ceremonial folding of the Australian flag.

The ceremonial folding of the Australian flag.

More than 60 people attended the graveside service at Buxton Cemetery.

More than 60 people attended the graveside service at Buxton Cemetery.