Prince Harry was at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Thursday to pay tribute to British service personnel killed in combat operations in Afghanistan. The Prince dedicated the Bastion Memorial at the site which is inscribed with the 453 names of those who were killed in action during the fourteen year conflict.
Some 3,500 people attended the service at the Arboretum including the Prime Minister David Cameron as well as military representatives, military charities and organisations and of course the family and friends of those soldier who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Bastion Memorial that Prince Harry dedicated on Thursday replicates the design of the original memorial wall in Camp Bastion and was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a commemoration service at St Paul’s Cathedral in March.
Camp Bastion is located in the Helmand Province region of Afghanistan and was the largest British overseas military camp built since the Second World War. During the British Army’s time at Camp Bastion it was also home to troops from a number of nations including the United States and in October 2014, the cap was handed over to the control of the Afghan security forces.
Prince Harry told the gathered crowds at Thursday’s service, “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.
“Once this ceremony has 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.”
Since operations began in Afghanistan in 2001, 453 UK personnel lost their lives with 404 of those being killed as a result of hostile action whilst 49 of them lost their lives as a result of illness, accident or non-combat injuries. Three of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice out in Afghanistan were women and the worst year for loss of life was 2009, where a huge 109 soldiers were killed.
The Bastion Memorial at the Arboretum incorporates material from the original wall with the brass plaques from the original structure being brought back from Afghanistan to be encased within the new granite memorial. The memorial also features a cross made of shell casings also originally on the Camp Bastion memorial.
Prince Harry leaves the Army this month after completing ten years of service. Harry saw action in Afghanistan twice in this time when he served as an Apache helicopter co-pilot and gunner.
photo credit: Crown Copyright 2015, Corporal Max Bryan