Families’ first visit to field of remembrance

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FAMILIES of fallen soldiers visited the North East’s first field of remembrance.

Among those to pay their respects at the memorial in Gateshead, which opened at the weekend, were members of Sunderland charity Brothers In Arms.

Founder member Tom Cuthbertson, whose son Nathan was killed in Afghanistan in 2008, was moved to see the 19-year-old’s photo among around 10,000 wooden crosses bearing poppies and moving messages.

“Obviously we have the wall of remembrance in Sunderland which is a bit closer,” said the 43-year-old, from Tunstall. “But it was nice to go through for a one-off.

“We have been there and seen it and it was nice.

“It was great to see all the crosses. It was very moving, magnificent sight.”

The Royal British Legion worked with families of North East soldiers killed in Afghanistan to create a permanent memorial site in order to pay tribute to servicemen and woman who lost their lives in conflict which loved ones and the public can visit.

The display in Saltwell Park is the first regional field of remembrance to be opened in the country.

Families of fallen soldiers, volunteers, servicemen and students from the Officer Training Corps began planting crosses early on Friday.

Janice Murray, from Washington, whose 18-year-old son Michael Tench died in Iraq in 2007, briefly visited the field, but said it was too upsetting to look for her soldier son’s cross.

“It was very peaceful and calm,” she said.

Andrew Drake, the North area manager for the Royal British Legion, said: “Saltwell Park is so impressive and it’s an ideal venue.

“Once it is opened, this will be a place for remembrance and quiet reflection for the families of fallen soldiers and members of the public.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support in fund-raising for the field of remembrance.

“There are currently fields in Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh and London, but this is the first regional field.”

The North Field of Remembrance was officially opened on Saturday.

Hundreds attended a service of dedication led by military chaplain, the Reverend Charles Hope of 102 Battalion, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Volunteers.

A two-minute silence was observed at 11am, before military chiefs from across the region representing the RAF, Army and the Royal Navy dedicated a Remembrance Cross in the field.

•BROTHERS in Arms raised more than £100,000 so a wall of remembrance could be built next to Sunderland’s Burdon Road War memorial.

Hundreds of people gathered on November 12 last year to see Father Stephen Hazlett dedicate the wall, which is made of a series of 26 granite plinths encircling the war memorial.

The charity is now raising cash to have lighting installed at the wall, along with railings to hang poppy wreaths.

l Sunderland’s Parachute Regiment Association is looking for new members.

Serving and ex-paratroopers are invited to come along to the Gunners’ Club in Mary Street on the second Thursday of every month, from 8pm.

The club organises social events and takes part in fund-raising.

For more information, contact Tom Cuthbertson on 07951 853 128.