Wiltshire

Prince Harry opens Wootton Bassett remembrance field

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Media captionPrince Harry planted a cross during the ceremony

The first remembrance field dedicated to the British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan has been opened by Prince Harry.

The prince also planted a cross in the Royal British Legion Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance, at Lydiard Park, Wiltshire.

The 342 UK service personnel who have lost their lives in the conflict were honoured with a two-minute silence.

Up to 35,000 crosses will be planted, each with a personal message.

So far about 20,000 are in place at the site in Swindon and the number should reach 35,000 by the end of the week.

The prince planted a cross dedicated to his friend, Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate, who was killed on foot patrol in Sangin, Helmand, on 26 March.

The two served in the Household Cavalry Regiment together.

Royal British Legion repatriation officer Anne Bevis said: "It will mean a lot to the people of Wootton Bassett and Wiltshire to know that there is a Field of Remembrance solely dedicated to those men and women in the British Armed Forces who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

"This is the first of its kind and we're very proud."

'Great honour'

Rod Bluh, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: "It's obviously a great honour for Swindon but I would suggest it's probably a great honour for Wootton Bassett.

"It's because of the proximity to Wootton Bassett that Lydiard has been chosen.

"I have to say, what a superb setting for this. It is quite moving when you walk in and get confronted by 35,000 crosses. It's the sort of thing that just sends shivers through you."

The prince also met armed forces personnel hoping to raise £1m for the Royal British Legion in the 1,000-mile March For Honour, and saw them off on their last leg to London.

The march is to commemorate servicemen and women who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After meeting Prince Harry, Royal Navy Commando Petty Officer Jason Gadd said: "I'm a great fan of the Royal Family and the fact both Harry and William are in the armed services is brilliant.

"You can really relate to him [Harry] as he's done it.

"He joked with us in a bit of rival service banter.

"He made a comment about the Navy's lack of ships and said we should move to the Army. We just said that's too easy."

In setting the personnel off on their last leg, there was a countdown from the public but as the prince went to sound a klaxon, just a puff of smoke came out.

Prince Harry laughed it off and the teams departed.

Funds from March For Honour and the 2010 Poppy Appeal will pay for welfare and rehabilitation work for the Armed Forces community.

For more than two years, people in Wootton Bassett have been stopping to pay their respects to dead soldiers repatriated to RAF Lyneham and driven through the town on the way to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

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