THE mother of a soldier killed in the war on Iraq is planning a military funeral.

Ann Nichol watched television coverage of the bodies of the first British servicemen killed in the Gulf being flown into RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, in tears at the weekend.

Her son, Colour Sergeant John Cecil, 36, was among the first casualties of the war when he and seven Royal Marine colleagues perished as their Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait in the first days of the war.

Friends spoke of their shock at the death of the popular family man, who was born and brought up in Sandyford, Newcastle.

His mother said she wanted the Ministry of Defence to honour her son with a full military funeral.

Defence chiefs have yet to organise the funerals of any of the 27 British servicemen who have so far lost their lives in the war.

The first bodies brought back to the UK are at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, where inquests have been opened and adjourned.

Funerals are expected to be arranged in the coming weeks, with families given the choice between a private or military ceremony.

Ms Nichol, 58, of Coatsworth Court, Gateshead, said: "When I watched the bodies being brought back on television, I cried and cried and cried. I have not slept much since.

"I want a military funeral for him. He died a hero for his country and I am so proud of him. He was not just my son, he was the country's son."

Ms Nichol divorced from John and his older brother David's father, Stan, while the boys were still children and left the family home in Grantham Road, Newcastle.

She remarried in the 80s but remained close to her two sons.