Bodies of Britons killed fighting IS in Syria return home

The bodies of two British men killed while fighting against Islamic State in Syria have been repatriated to the UK.

Sniper Jac Holmes and Oliver Hall, both 24, died one month apart last year while battling the extremist group in Raqqa with the Kurdistan People's Protection Units (YPG).

They were flown into Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon, following a day-long delay due to paperwork issues.

The coffins of British men Jac Holmes and Ollie Hall leave Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)
The coffins of Jac Holmes and Ollie Hall leave Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)

As they left in private ambulances, a main road was closed briefly to allow the families and members of the Kurdish community to hold a pause for silence, pay their respects, lay flowers and make speeches.

Mr Hall had been fighting against IS for almost four months when he died on November 25 after being fatally injured in an explosion.

His mother, Jane Lyndon, and his stepfather, Gary Lyndon, said the "headstrong" 24-year-old had "found his calling" and that they had "not seen him this happy in a long time" when he was out fighting.

The 24-year-old, from the Portsmouth area, had travelled to Syria on August 18 and spent five weeks in an academy in Rojava, northern Syria, without his family's knowledge.

Mrs Lyndon said she last saw him when he dropped her off at work one morning.

Peter Holmes and Angie Blannin, left, parents of Jac Holmes, and Jane and Gary Lyndon, right, mother and stepfather of Ollie Hall (Steve Parsons/PA)
Peter Holmes and Angie Blannin, left, parents of Jac Holmes, and Jane and Gary Lyndon, right, mother and stepfather of Ollie Hall (Steve Parsons/PA)

She said: "He took me to work and was supposed to be picking me up but said he couldn't because he was going to the cinema, and then at half 11 that night, he texted me and said he was in Germany and (would be) working in a refugee camp for two months.

"Then I had another text at four, five in the morning to say he was leaving the airport and he would message me when he could, and it was about four days later when he messaged me and said he was in northern Syria."

A tearful Mrs Lyndon added: "The light went out of my eyes the day that he went."

She said she wanted her son to be remembered as a "brave, courageous young man who was headstrong but followed his calling".

Mr Holmes, from Bournemouth, died in October while clearing mines in Raqqa just after it had been liberated from IS control.

The war-ravaged Syrian town had served as the headquarters of the so-called IS caliphate since 2014.

His mother Angie Blannin previously told the Press Association: "He stood up for what he believed in and he had the courage of his convictions to go out and do something where he thought that the West were not doing enough."

Members of the Kurdish community pay their respects as the coffins of British men Jac Holmes and Ollie Hall leave Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)
Members of the Kurdish community pay their respects as the coffins of Jac Holmes and Ollie Hall leave Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)

Mark Campbell, co-chairman of the Kurdistan solidarity campaign, described Mr Holmes as "thoughtful, intelligent", and a "well-researched young man" who grew up during his time in Syria.

He added: "He was involved in some incredible encounters with Isis and he really wanted to be involved in the liberation of Raqqa.

"It was such a cruel twist of history that right at the end, it was the day after the liberation of Raqqa, that he was clearing a house for civilians and was killed in an IED explosion."

Mr Holmes had completed three tours in Syria since joining the YPG in January 2015.

Mr Campbell, who was involved in the repatriation of Mr Holmes and Mr Hall, said the gathering was an opportunity for "closure".

Mrs Lyndon said the 24-hour postponement in their return was "the worst day of her life".

Mr Campbell described the repatriation process as "difficult" as the bodies travelled through northern Syria and Iraq, before going to Jordan and then flying to London.

The YPG is mostly made up of around 50,000 Kurdish men and women fighting against IS in northern Syria.

The other British fatalities fighting against IS are Mehmet Aksoy, 32, Luke Rutter, 22, Ryan Lock, 20, Dean Evans, 22, and Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS