A widow and her two sons stood proudly on the streets of a military town today to pay tribute to a Chorley bomb disposal expert killed in Afghanistan.

Corallee Markland took her place among the crowd at Wootton Bassett, in Wiltshire, to lay flowers on the hearse of her husband, Warrant Officer Class 2 David Markland, 36.

Their two sons Keelen, aged 10, and Logan, seven, also braved biting wind to watch their father's body return to the UK.

The brothers, each wearing a winter coat, looked resolute as the cortege - also carrying the bodies of two other soldiers - made its way past the war memorial.

Mrs Markland was seen to tenderly stroke the cheek of one boy in the minutes before the cars arrived.

WO2 Markland, was killed in a blast from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on February 8 this year.

The father of two, a Royal Engineer Search Advisor, was part of a team clearing routes of explosives in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand.

Born in Euxton he attended Parklands school before becoming a sapper and instructor during his 20 years' service, and was on his eighth tour of duty when he died. He had previously served in Iraq and Bosnia.

The family had earlier watched a plane carrying WO2 Markland's body land at nearby RAF Lyneham.

A private ceremony was held at the base's chapel before hundreds of people once more lined the streets of Wootton to watch the men's bodies drive through the High Street.

WO2 Markland's relatives made no comment today but said in a statement after his death: "Dave was a wonderful husband, father, son and brother. His family and friends all loved and adored him. Keelen and Logan will always remember how funny and playful Dad was. He was proud to be in the British Army just like his Dad."

In the crowd this afternoon were Minu Gurung, 29, and Prem Dun, 27, from Maidstone, in Kent, whose husbands were both comrades of WO2 Markland.

Fighting back tears Mrs Gurung said: "I feel really proud to be here now. It is an honour to have him as a colleague of my husband.

"He (her husband) mentioned that David was very friendly and a really active person. He didn't like to keep still.

"I feel very sorry for Corallee and her boys. Two lovely boys."

"Seeing lots of people here makes me really proud.

Of the conflict she said: "What they did is really great. They should stick to what they do. It's up to the government at the end of the day. They should stop the war I think."

Also repatriated in the same plane were Corporal Johnathan Moore, 22, and Private Sean McDonald, 26, of The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Both were killed in Afghanistan a day before WO2 Markland, in an explosion near Sangin.

Cpl Moore was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, and grew up in Hamilton.

He was commanding his section on a routine night patrol to the south of the company base that evening when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) detonated, killing him and Pte McDonald.

Pte McDonald was born in Toronto and went to school in Edinburgh.

He leaves behind his wife Jennifer, his mother Jacqueline, brother Darryle McDonald, and sister Ceilidh Spratt.

Their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert said earlier Cpl Moore was "the perfect Scottish warrior" and the Pte McDonald "died a hero".