Prince Harry opens memorial for Britain`s Afghan war dead

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 21:01

Wootton Bassett (England): Prince Harry
today 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served in Afghanistan for 10 weeks but was withdrawn in 2008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.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 21:01

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