Field of remembrance opens in Saltwell Park, Gateshead
- 26 October 2012
- From the section Tyne & Wear
Thousands of wooden crosses carrying poppies and tributes to Britain's fallen heroes will be planted on Tyneside later.
Around 10,000 crosses will make up the North's first field of remembrance.
They will go on display in Gateshead after the Royal British Legion worked with families of local soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Saltwell Park will be open to the public in the run up to Remembrance Sunday.
Closer than ever
Loved ones of Cpl Steven Dunn and Rifleman Mark Turner, both originally from Gateshead, will plant their own crosses at the official opening on Saturday.
Rifleman Turner died after an explosion in the Kajaki district of Helmand Province in April 2010.
Cpl Dunn was killed by a blast in the the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand in December 2010.
His close friend Sharron Potts said Saltwell Park was the perfect place to remember fallen troops.
"I feel closer to Steven now than I ever did," she said.
"I know that I'm doing something good in Steven's memory and to help all of those soldiers coming back from the front line in Afghanistan."
"The field of remembrance is a massive achievement. The nearest one to us is in the midlands, we just need as many people as possible to come and show their respects."
Leah Harris from the Royal British Legion said other fields in London, Cardiff, Royal Wootton Bassett, Edinburgh and Belfast would also open ahead of 11 November but the North East project had been especially poignant.
She said: "We've been working really closely with two mothers who lost their sons. They've been really pivotal.
"This is the first field of remembrance in the North and with their support and the support of the local community we've been able to bring this to life.
"They have been an inspiration. I think their grief is still very raw and it's really important for them and their family and friends to have this field of remembrance in Gateshead."
Families and friends of Cpl Dunn and Rifleman Turner have been joined by hundreds of others from around the North East in raising money for a permanent memorial for the region's servicemen and women.
The field of remembrance will be open from dusk until dawn to allow people to pay their respects.
Ms Harris said: "Saltwell Park is the kind of place where people can wander in. We're hoping people will pop by, pick up a tribute and add it."
Ms Potts said the work to support the field of remembrance and other fundraising had helped Cpl Dunn's mother, Vicky.
"She's just been overwhelmed by the support," Ms Potts said.
"Steven would be over the moon with it. Everything he was involved with he was very committed to and he lived for the army."