THE families of two servicemen who died in Afghanistan have paid tribute to their loved ones.

Captain James Townley, 29, from the Corps of Royal Engineers, and Sergeant Jonathan Kups, 38, right, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton yesterday.

About 300 people gathered to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their family and friends to pay respects at the memorial garden on the edge of Carterton.

Capt Townley’s father Peter Townley said: “James was a wonderful, caring, loving son. I am hugely proud of him.”

Capt Townley was originally from Somerset and attended Sexey’s School in the county.

Mr Townley said: “His science teacher has written to us saying very occasionally he got to teach exceptional students and it was a privilege to teach James.

“He was sure James was going to make a difference in society and society was worse off without him.”

Capt Townley went to University College Oxford, where he gained a first-class degree in engineering and computer science and made the college’s rowing team first eight.

Mr Townley described the support from the people of Oxfordshire yesterday as “tremendous”, adding: “I feel a mixture of pride and sorrow.”

Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College Oxford, said: “We were extremely saddened to hear of the untimely death of Capt James Townley.”

The flag above University College Oxford flew at half mast yesterday as a mark of respect. Lieutenant Colonel Chas Story, Capt Townley’s commanding officer, said: “We only recently said goodbye to him at our base in Germany and he was hugely looking forward to it and ready to go. I just did not expect this.”

Capt Townley was on his third tour of Afghanistan when he died following a shooting at Forward Operating Base Shawqat on Friday, a day before his 30th birthday.

His death is not believed to be the result of hostile action, the Ministry of Defence said.

Father-of-three Sgt Kups, of Swansea, died at Camp Bastion the same day. His death is currently being investigated by the MoD. His wife Claire said: “Jonathan was a very loving husband and an amazing father to his three children.”

She added her thanks to the people of Oxfordshire, the Royal British Legion and the military for the help and support they gave.

l No date has yet been set for the repatriation of Capt Carl Manley, of the Royal Marines, who passed away on Monday.

Capt Manley, 41, died at Bagram Air Force Base from what was believed to be natural causes, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.