MORE than 40,000 crosses with personal messages of remembrance have been planted at Lydiard Park as part of a tribute to servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of people gathered for this year’s opening of the Royal British Legion’s Field of Remembrance at Royal Wootton Bassett yesterday, which is in memory of the 437 British service people killed since the conflict began in 2001.
The opening ceremony was followed by a performance from Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton Du Beke and Kristina Rihanoff in front of 60,000 poppies, which have been laid out in a giant 11.11.11 formation in front of Lydiard House.
John Crisford, the national vice-chairman of the Royal British Legion, who was at the ceremony, said: “It is tremendous to see so many people here. It is so important that we remember the Afghanistan generation and the people who have paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom.
“Each year the fields of remembrance show how much heartfelt feeling there is for our armed forces who are sadly no longer with us – and we will never forget them.”
The ceremony included a dedication from The Reverend Canon Thomas Woodhouse, Last Post from The British Imperial Military Band, a two-minute silence and the placing of Remembrance Crosses.
Legion beneficiary and former private in the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, Aron Shelton, planted a cross in the memory of his friend Drummer Thomas Wright who was killed in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2007.
Aron, who was in the same incident, had his left leg amputated as a result of his injuries.
“Putting on a poppy for me is about remembering the ultimate sacrifice my mates and others like them made. I’m honoured to have planted a cross in Thomas’ memory today,” he said.
Tony Woodgate, father of fallen serviceman Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate, who died in Afghanistan in March 2010 at the age of 26, dedicated a cross in memory of his son.
Prince Harry planted a cross for Jonathan, who he served alongside in the Household Cavalry Regiment, at the first Wootton Bassett Field of Remembrance in 2010.
Royal Wootton Bassett mayor Mike Leighfield, also placed a Remembrance Cross.
“To be here was an absolute honour. Seeing the crosses and thinking about the amount of service personnel who have lost their lives is incredibly moving,” he said. “We are still paying our respects and that is how it should be.”
Five branches of the Royal British Legion, including Stratton St Margaret and Royal Wootton Bassett, were holding the standards during the ceremony.
After the dedications, The Military Wives Choir from the Defence Academy in Shrivenham performed Together We Are Stronger, and again later accompanied by a performance from the Strictly Come Dancing stars.
Footage will be shown on Strictly Come Dancing this weekend.
South Swindon MP, Robert Buckland and Swindon mayor, Mick Bray, also attended.
The Field of Remembrance in the walled garden at Lydiard Park, which is one of six open across the country, will be open to the public from 9am until 4pm until November 18.