A new war memorial in Bradford to the 29 servicemen and women killed since the end of the Second World War will be officially unveiled on Saturday – three years to the day when one of those honoured died a hero in action.
The ceremony in the memorial gardens will have particular poignancy for the family of Private Martin Bell, who was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan after going back to rescue a badly injured colleague, disobeying his commander’s order, on January 25, 2011.
Pte Bell, a 24-year-old paratrooper, of Idle, had been one of the lead men using mine sweepers to check for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the day he died in Helmand Province.
After his friend, Private Scott Meenagh, stood on an IED losing his legs, Pte Bell returned to rescue him and retrieve vital equipment to stop it falling into enemy hands. But as they started to move back another device went off causing Pte Meenagh even more grievous injuries and blowing Pte Bell and his commander off their feet.
Pte Bell, who was a police community support officer in the Worth Valley before joining the Parachute Regiment, was awarded a posthumous George Medal for his bravery.
His mum, Elaine Bell, said: “It’s going to be an emotional day for all the families. It’s no more our day than theirs, but it just felt especially ironic that it should be on the date that he was killed.
“It’s a lovely gesture that him and the others will be remembered. I’m grateful to those who made the memorial happen.”
It was calls from war widow Wendy Rayner, of Odsal, whose husband Sergeant Peter Rayner, 34, was killed in Afghanistan in September 2010 that persuaded Bradford Council to set up a new memorial.
The names of two other soldiers killed in Afghanistan are also honoured.
In May 2009, Sapper Jordan Rossi, 22, of Baildon, became the first soldier from the district to lose his life there when he was killed in a roadside blast while on a mine-clearing patrol near Sangin, Helmand Province.
Former Hanson School pupil, Private Christopher Kershaw, 19, of Idle, was the youngest Bradford soldier to die in Afghanistan when he and five other soldiers were killed when their armoured vehicle was blown up in March 2012.
The new memorial is situated behind the cenotaph in the memorial gardens near the Alhambra Theatre.
The unveiling ceremony on Saturday at 11am will be hosted by the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, along with the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, and the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe.
* Organisers of the event are still trying to track down relatives or friends of three of the service personnel named on the memorial.
They are Lieutenant B Brown, of the Royal Navy, who died in Malaya in 1965 and is understood to have been a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, Captain J H Young, who died in Northern Ireland in 1972 while serving in the Army and is understood to have been a pupil at Bingley Grammar School, and Sergeant Steven Roberts, 33, of Shipley, a tank commander, who was the first British soldier to be killed in combat in the Iraq war in 2003.
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