Prince Harry has joined families and members of the Armed Forces at the Bastion Memorial Service of Rededication at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, to remember those who gave their lives during Combat Operations in Afghanistan, 2001-2014.
A congregation of nearly 2,000 people, including the Prime Minister David Cameron, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, bereaved families, veterans and current Servicemen and women attended the service to rededicate the memorial in its new home.
During the service, the Bastion Memorial was rededicated by the Reverend Peter Eagles, Deputy Chaplain-General, Prince Harry delivered an Address to the audience on its significance for families and those who served in Afghanistan, and a one-minute silence was held to remember the Fallen. Afterwards, The Royal British Legion hosted a reception for guests.
The reconstructed Bastion Memorial is based on the same design as the former Bastion Memorial Wall built in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, which was deconstructed in late 2014 following the end of combat operations.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
I am pleased to be with so many families and friends to rededicate the Bastion Memorial today. I know from my own visits to Afghanistan how much it meant to our Servicemen and women there. I am delighted it has been brought home to the heart of the UK for current and future generations to reflect on and remember the sacrifices made throughout the campaign.
The Memorial contains elements of the original structure, such as the cross made of shell cases which has been placed on top of the Memorial’s cairn, the original memorial plaques that have been placed inside the structure and material from the original wall which has been inserted into the foundations. An engraved map of Afghanistan has been mounted on the rear of the Memorial, marking the locations where the UK Forces served over the 13-year campaign.
Major Kate Philp of the Royal Artillery gave a reading at today’s service. She served in Afghanistan in 2008 where she was involved in supporting 29 Commando Royal Artillery, and was injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) hit the armoured vehicle she was commanding three months into her deployment. As a result of her injuries, Major Philp had to have her left leg amputated below the knee.
Today was an important time for us to pause and reflect on the conflict in Afghanistan. The National Memorial Arboretum is a fitting place to house collective memories of those we have lost. Remembrance is a very personal thing but being able to come together and share such a beautiful, calming memorial brings us a few steps closer to finding peace with what we’ve been through.
Sean Augustin-Wood is the father of Lieutenant Oliver Richard Augustin of 42 Commando, Royal Marines. Lieutenant Augustin was killed by an IED whilst on patrol in the Loy Mandeh area of the Nad’Ali district in Helmand Province 2011.
Speaking at the service Sean said:
As a family we feel the memorial is a fitting tribute to those that made the ultimate sacrifice. It stands as a focal point for all those whose lives changed dramatically through injury and is a place of reflection for the thousands of service people and their families who lost friends and family, but only time will heal their scars.
Sue Freeth, Director of Operations of The Royal British Legion, parent charity of the National Memorial Arboretum, said:
The Bastion Memorial will bring comfort to the family members and friends of the British Armed Forces personnel who lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict, not least because they will know that the memories of their loved ones will live on in this place of Remembrance.
The Legion has supported the welfare of many individuals and families affected by the war in Afghanistan and we will continue our vital work to uphold the memory of the fallen and support the future of the living.
Up to seven members of each family of deceased personnel were invited to attend the service alongside members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force, many of who hold the Afghan Medal. There were also representatives of countries whose nationals are listed on the memorial, and from Afghanistan.
The Bastion Memorial is now open for visits by the public all year round at the National Memorial Arboretum. The Arboretum is also home to the Armed Forces Memorial, the UK’s tribute to all Servicemen and women killed on duty or by acts of terrorism since 1948.