Remembrance service for Afghan war dead

Crosses were planted to remember UK forces who have died in Afghanistan

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A service has taken place near Royal Wootton Bassett to remember more than 400 members of the UK armed forces who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

It was held at the Royal British Legion's Field of Remembrance, at Lydiard Park, Wiltshire.

Over 40,000 crosses bearing personal remembrance messages were placed in Lydiard Park's walled garden.

And 30,000 poppies are being planted, each with a tribute from Legion supporters to those lost in service.

Meanwhile, the Guards Museum is trying to raise £140,000 to bring back soil from 70 World War One battlefields.

The soil will be interred in a memorial garden at London's Wellington Barracks.

'Ultimate sacrifice'

Among those who attended the remembrance service at Lydiard Park on Friday morning was Emma Hickman, the fiancee of Pte Daniel Wade, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in March 2012.

At the scene

The heavens opened and the rain came down. But the mood remained respectful and poignant as those gathered bowed their heads to remember servicemen and women who have lost their lives in conflict.

Forty-six thousand individual crosses remember those who have died. Among them one for Warrant Officer Ian Fisher, who was killed in a suicide bombing earlier this week.

Emma Hickman planted a cross for her fiancé, Daniel Wade, who was killed three months before the birth of his daughter Lexie-Mai, now 16 months old. She sheltered beneath a Royal British Legion umbrella as a lone bugler played the Last Post, which was followed by a two-minute silence.

The field near Royal Wootton Bassett is one of six across the country - with London, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh and Gateshead. The Wiltshire town was chosen because year after year people here would come together to pay their respects at the repatriation of service personnel.

Pte Wade, 20, from Cheshire, who served with 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, died along with five colleagues when their Warrior armoured personnel carrier was destroyed by a bomb.

Royal British Legion national vice-chairman Terry Whittles said the service was aimed at showing "support and admiration" for those who have paid the "ultimate sacrifice".

"We will never forget them," he said. "I would encourage all members of the public to visit the Field of Remembrance and pay their respects in this very special place."

The park will be open to the public until November 17.

The Guards Museum has described the move to return "sacred soil" from some of the most famous battlefields in Belgium as a "historic world-first project".

Funding shortfall

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission has allowed the soil to be excavated for the first time, from sites widely regarded as having seen some of World War One's most tragic episodes of conflict.

More than 1,000 British and Belgian schoolchildren were involved in collecting 70 bags of soil from the battlefields this summer.

The soil will arrive in London on 29 November aboard Belgian Naval Frigate the Louise Marie - which will sail under Tower Bridge and berth alongside HMS Belfast.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at the opening of the SSAFA HQ in London The Queen opened the new HQ of armed forces charity SSAFA in the City of London

The following day, the soil will be moved to a new memorial garden at the Guards Museum, in Wellington Barracks, near Buckingham Palace.

The £700,000 project will be funded jointly by The Guards Museum, public donations and corporate sponsors - including a contribution from the Government of Flanders.

But the Guards Museum says there is still a £280,000 funding shortfall - including £140,000 to bring back the bags of soil, costing £2,000 per bag.

Andrew Wallis, curator of the Guards Museum, added that the garden would stand as a "tangible demonstration of the bond between Britain and Belgium".

It comes as the Queen officially opened the new headquarters of the armed forces charity SSAFA in the City of London.

She was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and unveiled a plaque to mark her 60 years as patron of the charity, formerly the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association.

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