|The Earl of Wessex, meets Lisburn City Council Mayor, Councillor Allan Ewart and Mayoress, Mrs Denise Ewart, following a Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance marking the return of 19th Light Brigade from operations in Afghanistan.|
BRAVE' 'proud' and 'exceptional' is how soldiers of the 40 Regiment Royal Artillery based at Thiepval Barracks who were killed in Afghanistan were described in a moving ceremony at St Anne's Cathedral, on Wednesday
Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Owen J Adams, spoke of the courage of Bombardier Craig Hopson and Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton who were killed in what he described as the 'most the most demanding operational tour.'
On Wednesday, over 500 guests and serving personnel attended the Memorial and Thanksgiving Service for Northern Ireland based 19 Light Brigade at St. Anne's followed by a reception at Hillsborough Castle. Col Adams said: They died on the Battlefield leading soldiers in the most challenging of situations; they were both exceptionally brave, proud and professional soldiers who relished the opportunity to serve in Afghanistan and were an inspiration to us all. The Royal Artillery were deployed in Afghanistan in April 2009 provided the Army's firepower on the battlefield during some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan."
The Brigade have just returned from a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan during which they led operations in Helmand during the Afghan elections including Operation Panthers Claw. Col Adams described the soldiers' living conditions as medieval - they slept under the sky in mosquito nets, they ate army rations, had limited access to welfare facilities, and washed under solar showers in the open.
"They lived amongst the ever present Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and small arms threat whilst knowingly putting themselves in danger right at the front, or at the extreme edges, of the advancing forces to ensure that they gained positive identification of the enemy. Using a variety of radio nets, they weaved together an array of devastating weapon effects from artillery, rockets and mortars whilst ensuring the air platforms were safely lined up to deliver their lethal payloads at the precise moment.
"The delivery of these coordinated weapon effects is often the defining point of the battle, which either kills or defeats the insurgent. Yet a miscalculation by time or space, which is measured in seconds and metres, can lead to the catastrophic death of friendly forces or local nationals so the physical and mental pressure is immense.
Col Adams also praised the home team in Northern Ireland, who he described as 'outstanding, supporting the deployed force in every way practicable'.
He concluded "The soldiers of 40th Regiment feel very proud of their performance in the most demanding operational tour of their lives so far. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Bombardier Craig Hopson and Lance Bombardier Mathew Hutton."
Commander of 19 Light Brigade, Brigadier Tim Radford read out 83 names of those who were killed and laid a wreath following the ceremony. "Tragically, over 70 men from my Task Force were killed in action and many more received life-changing injuries," he said. "As the Commander of a tight-knit Task
Force those losses have been felt deeply by all of us.
"I expect that 19 Light Brigade's tour will be remembered for the hardest fight the British Army has encountered in Helmand province. But to selectively remember the sacrifice without the progress would be to forget the reason that so many laid down their lives.
"I judge that we have made real progress and injected a renewed momentum into Helmand.
"The resolve, determination and bravery of the whole Task Force are something that I am extremely proud of, and I believe the public should be too."