Prince Harry opens memorial for Britain's Afghan war dead

9th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prince Harry on Tuesday opened a field of remembrance to Britain's war dead in Afghanistan, planting a cross in memory of a friend killed while fighting Taliban insurgents.

Harry -- who is third in line to the throne and has served with the British army in Afghanistan -- wore full military dress for the sombre ceremony in the market town of Wootton Bassett, southwest England.

The 26-year-old observed two minutes' silence to honour the 342 British troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001, before planting the small wooden cross for his friend, Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate.

Woodgate, also 26, was in the Household Cavalry Regiment with Harry and was killed on a foot patrol in the troubled Sangin district of Afghanistan's southern Helmand province in March.

"You can really relate to him (Harry) as he's done it," Royal Navy Commando Petty Officer Jason Gadd said after meeting the prince at the ceremony.

The field of remembrance has been set up by the Royal British Legion, a charity for current and former British military service personnel.

Wootton Bassett is near RAF Lyneham, the air force base used since 2007 to fly Britain's war dead home from Afghanistan, and a solemn procession through the high street takes place for every coffin that arrives.

Harry -- known as Lieutenant Wales in the military -- served in Afghanistan for 10 weeks but was withdrawn in 2008 after media reported the deployment, triggering fears for his security.

His elder brother Prince William, 28, said last month that he was determined to serve on the front line in Afghanistan like Harry.

Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in Helmand, making it the second largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in July that Britain could start withdrawing troops as early as next year and has pledged that British combat troops will be out of Afghanistan in five years' time.

But General Sir David Richards, the head of Britain's armed forces, this week ruled out any reduction before 2012 said Britain may need to keep up to 1,000 "trainers" in Afghanistan after 2015.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article