His Royal Highness Prince Harry will attend a Service of Dedication to inaugurate the Bastion Memorial, and remember those who lost their lives during combat operations in Afghanistan, on Thursday 11 June at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.
Prince Harry will join family and friends of the Fallen, including current personnel and veterans, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Senior political and military representatives, military charities and organisations will also be represented.
At the Service, the Bastion Memorial will be dedicated and there will be a one-minute silence to remember and pay tribute to the Fallen. The Royal British Legion will host a reception for bereaved family and friends after the Service.
Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon said,
“It is right that we will be holding this important service of dedication in the presence of so many of the family and friends of the brave men and women whose names are etched on the memorial. It will stand as a permanent reminder of the ultimate sacrifice they made towards ensuring the security of the UK and the stability of Afghanistan.”
The reconstructed Bastion Memorial replicates the same design as the former Bastion Memorial Wall in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan that was deconstructed in late 2014 following the end of combat operations. The new memorial, containing some elements from the original such as the Cross made of shell cases, is built with different materials. It also has a raised map of Afghanistan mounted on the rear, which marks the locations where the UK forces served over the 13-year campaign.
Major Thomas McDermott of The Royal Tank Regiment served several tours in Afghanistan, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He lost a close friend there in 2009, Captain Tom Sawyer. In 2013 on another tour of duty, a member of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force under his command, Lance Corporal Jay Brynin, also lost his life. He said,
“The Memorial Wall in Camp Bastion was an important part of how we coped with loss. It was the heart of the Camp, and over the years gave thousands of soldiers a focal point for thought and remembrance. It was common, particularly after memorials and vigils, to see soldiers spending time around it reflecting on their fallen comrades.
“Bringing the heart of Bastion back to the heart of the country, Staffordshire, is exactly the right thing to do, sustaining the ability of family, friends and comrades to remember those they loved and lost. It really will help to ensure that we never forget.”
Jacqui Thompson is the widow of Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, a Reservist based at RAF Cottesmore who died in 2008 in Afghanistan, and they have five daughters. Jacqui said:
“It’s a little over seven years since we lost Gary, and to be honest the sense of loss just seems to get bigger! The Bastion Service will be so hard for me because I wasn’t there for Gary’s final moments, I never got to hold him or say goodbye.
“I cannot think of a more fitting place for the Bastion Wall’s final resting place than the National Memorial Arboretum. It is such an incredibly special place. It’s where Gary and our brave men and women have a place where they will never be forgotten.”
Up to seven members of each bereaved family can attend the service. After 11 June, the public can visit the Bastion Memorial year-round at the NMA, the UK’s centre of Remembrance. The NMA, part of The Royal British Legion, 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.
Notes to Editors
The Service of Dedication is by invitation only. Welfare teams from all three Services have written to the families of the Fallen to invite them to the event.
The reconstructed Bastion Memorial, built from sand coloured granite, has the names of those who died on operations in Afghanistan engraved on black granite plaques and picked out in gold. The features of the Memorial are:
• The original brass plaques of the former memorial have been repatriated and built into the new memorial’s main internal core
• The foundations contain a block repatriated from the former memorial
• A raised map of Afghanistan mounted on the rear with key locations marked, some of which contain stone particles from Afghanistan
• The original Cross made of shell casings and re-dedicated during the St Paul’s Cathedral Service in March 2015, will be mounted on the central plinth to complete the build.