UK

Prince Harry hails fallen at Bastion Memorial service

David Cameron and Prince Harry Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Cameron was among those who attended the ceremony

Prince Harry said those who lost their lives during the Afghanistan conflict will be "forever in our hearts" as he unveiled a memorial to their sacrifice.

The Bastion Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, bears the names of all 453 UK personnel who died in Afghanistan.

He told their family and friends during the service of dedication that it would be a "place of pilgrimage" for them.

Some 3,500 people, including Prime Minister David Cameron, attended.

'Take comfort'

Military representatives, military charities and organisations, the UK's Nato allies and other senior politicians were also present.

A one-minute silence was observed during the service in memory of those lost.

The memorial, which replicates the design of the original memorial wall in Camp Bastion, was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a commemoration service at St Paul's Cathedral in March.

Harry said it "reflected the spirit of the old one"

The prince laid a wreath of poppies, with the message: "The fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sister named on this memorial, will forever be in our thoughts and prayers, as are those who miss them so dearly."


'Their names will live on'

Image copyright Getty Images

By Caroline Wyatt, BBC religious affairs correspondent

The sun glinted from the cross made of shell-casings that sits atop the memorial wall that once stood at the heart of Camp Bastion.

It is engraved with the names of the 453 British servicemen and women who died between 2001 and 2014.

Before laying a wreath, Prince Harry - himself a veteran of that war - spoke with feeling of the pain of loss, saying that each person who had lost a loved one would feel a different emotion: "grief, sorrow, loss, anger, or regret for that left unsaid."

For Jacqui Thompson, the widow of Senior Aircraftsman Gary Thompson, the oldest serviceman to be killed, the loss is still raw.

She visited the National Memorial Arboretum when the wall was being rebuilt here, and a locket she wore in Gary's memory is now embedded within it; a small comfort for the widow and five daughters that he left behind.

Rifleman William Aldridge was the youngest serviceman to die. He turned 18 just months before he was killed by a Taliban bomb in 2009.

Today, for the first time, his mother Lucy saw her son's name on the memorial.

The war itself may be over, but for the families who've lost their loved ones, the pain goes on, although here at the memorial wall, their names and their sacrifice will live on.


Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Three-year-old Jake Thackary pays tribute to uncle Jake Alderton after the service of dedication
Image copyright MOD
Image caption The memorial wall at Camp Bastion, Helmand Province

Harry said: "As we sit here amongst friends, we can take comfort in the knowledge that they gave their lives doing a job they loved, for a country they loved, and amongst mates who loved them dearly."

He added: "Once this ceremony is ended and all the trappings of the day have been cleared away, this will become a place of pilgrimage, a quiet space for remembrance just as it was in Camp Bastion, all those miles away."

Harry leaves the Army this month after a 10-year career, having action in Afghanistan twice - most recently in 2012, when he served as an Apache helicopter co-pilot and gunner.


UK's Afghanistan toll

  • A total of 453 UK personnel have died while serving in Afghanistan since operations begun in October 2001
  • Of those, 404 were killed as a result of hostile action
  • The other 49 either died as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or their cause of death has not been officially determined
  • Three of those who died were women

See the full list of those who died in Afghanistan here.


The foundations of the memorial incorporates material from the original wall, with the brass plaques from the original memorial brought back from Afghanistan to be encased within the new granite structure.

It also features a cross made of shell casings from the original structure, Afghan pebble chippings and the last union flag to fly over the memorial at Camp Bastion.

UK troops in Afghanistan

140,000

UK troops served

£21.5bn

Total operational cost

  • 453 UK troops killed

  • 108 died in 2009 - the worst year

  • 470 mentors staying on

MOD

UK forces were part of a US-led coalition which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the ruling Taliban in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks in the US.

At the peak of the 13-year campaign the UK military had 9,500 troops and 137 bases in Helmand Province.

The UK ended its operations in Afghanistan in October, while Nato finished its mission in December.

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