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RAF Squadron Leader
January 22 / 2010

The 13th January 2012 was a very significant and sad day in Kingsdown, two miles from Deal. An heroic young RAF Squadron Leader was buried with full military honours in the churchyard here. Hundreds of residents and mourners lined the village street in true Wootton Bassett style with fifteen or more veterans proudly dipping their standards as the cortege passed. At the church Air Force blue was prominent as beautiful and immaculately dressed people in RAF uniform, who had travelled from all over the country, paid homage to a courageous colleague aged 34 from this village. He had been seriously injured just before Christmas by a roadside bomb while serving with Special Forces in Afghanistan and had died of his wounds in hospital after being brought back to England. The small village church could not cater for the huge numbers present but a loudspeaker system relayed the service to the throng outside who thus participated in the service. A chillingly cold morning was ignored as those who came to pay respects stood to absorb a most poignant experience. There were many tears from men and women caught up in the pain of it all and the grief was palpable. Following the service in the church the coffin covered by the Union Flag and upon which cap and medals rested, was borne by his comrades to an open grave. Passing through a Guard of Honour with arms reversed and in the presence of a huge gathering Squadron Leader Anthony Dowling was laid to rest. As the last note of the bugle call Last Post was sounded by an RAF trumpeter the silence was gently broken by the sound of an approaching aircraft and a huge grey RAF Nimrod aircraft lumbered over the scene in salute. It seemed low enough to touch. This mark of respect to a brave airman, a local boy respected by all, was a gloriously moving tribute that no one present will forget. In his short life he had excelled in everything he had attempted. He had left a letter to be read only in the event of his death that was read out during his funeral service. "Don't worry about me", he wrote to his parents, "for I have lived a brief but so happy life". The Royal Air Force is diminished by this officer's death. He was a brave, compassionate and exemplary leader and a recognized example to his colleagues. In all the years our little village has produced no better.

Graham Hoskins.


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