A DREAM to create a lasting memorial to Sunderland’s fallen heroes today became a reality.
The names of those who gave their lives for their country are now firmly cemented in the city’s history books after the unveiling of a new monument.
The tribute, revealed ahead of its official opening in November, was the vision of a group of parents and relations who lost their loved ones in battle.
In little more than two years of dedicated fund-raising and hard work, Brothers In Arms’ dream of building a wall to honour the courage of service personnel today stands complete in the city’s Mowbray Park.
The touching tribute is made up of about 20 granite plinths that bear the names of 18 service personnel who have been killed in active service or training accidents since 1946.
Standing next to Sunderland Cenotaph in Burdon Road, the memorial wall is set to be officially unveiled on the fitting time of 11am on November 11 – 11/11/11.
Tom Cuthbertson, 41, of Tunstall, whose 19-year-old paratrooper son, Nathan, was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan in 2008, said: “It really is an amazing day. It is a proud day for us as well as the city. The memorial looks every bit as good as we hoped it would.”
Brothers In Arms was launched by five families that have seen loved ones killed while serving their country.
Their vision was to build a permanent memorial to commemorate their bravery and where they could be remembered.
The group’s fund-raising drive touched the hearts of Wearsiders who clamoured to raise an initial target of £90,000 to build the wall – a target that was smashed with donors raising a staggering £120,000.
Linda Fisken, whose nephew Tony Evans, from Hendon, died in a Taliban ambush in 2008 while serving with the Royal Marines, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us with the memorial – local businesses, the council as well as the fund-raisers and those who made donations.
“They have all played their part and we want to pay tribute to them all.”
However, more money is still needed to cover the cost of maintaining the site.
“I’m physically, mentally and emotionally drained, but our work is not done yet,” said Tom’s wife Carla. “We need to raise more funds to cover the cost of the up-keep of the memorial.
The aim is also for the wall to provide an educational purpose, with a brief history of the 22 conflicts that have taken place since 1945 appearing on it.
Space has also been left for other names to be added as heroic soldiers are tragically killed serving their country.
Janice Murray, from Carley Hill, whose 18-year-old son Michael Tench was killed in Iraq in 2007, said: “We have focused all of our grief into this project. It is a positive from a negative.”
The first few visitors to the wall seemed impressed.
Builder Steven Boyce, 25, from Southwick, said: “I really like it. It is something that the city can be proud of.”
Doreen Lowe and Laura Culling, both 69, said the granite design was a fitting tribute to local heroes.
“I think it’s a really nice design,” said retired civil servant Doreen. “It is simple and understated, but fitting. It reminds me of similar memorials in America.”
l An official black-tie celebration night will take place at the Stadium of Light on November 11, at 7pm, to mark the wall’s completion.
Tickets, priced £25, include a three-course meal, entertainment and disco. Full details on 07951 853128.
To donate, make cheques payable to the Brothers in Arms Appeal and post them to Thompson House, Commercial Road, Sunderland, SR2 8QR.