Grim toll of troops reinforces need for campaign

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MPS and Army heads have stressed the importance of the Yorkshire Post’s Christmas Appeal supporting soldiers and their families, as the region suffers its bloodiest month in Afghanistan on record.

Yorkshire lost three soldiers in November, Private Matthew Haseldin, 21, of Settle, Pte Matthew Thornton, 28, of Barnsley, and most recently 20-year-old Rifleman Sheldon Steel, of Bramley, near Leeds.

Lance Corporal Peter Eustace, 25, who was serving with 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, was also killed during the month.

There were seven British Army deaths in November, making it the joint worst month for fatalities since July 2010 when 15 soldiers were killed, including two from Yorkshire.

At the start of this month, the Yorkshire Post launched its appeal in aid of ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity, which is battling to care for soldiers and their families at a time of unprecedented need.

Now following the latest tragedy, campaign supporters have stressed the vital need to support our troops.

Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “The most striking part of being a member of Parliament is every week at Prime Minister’s Question Time when you hear the roll call of servicemen and women who have died in action.

“It is always very moving but it has been particularly thought provoking in the past few weeks given the number of Yorkshire servicemen who have lost their lives – especially given their age.

“My thoughts are with their families and we all must do all we can to help.”

Pte Thornton, a Territorial Army soldier described as a “true Yorkshire warrior” from 4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) 48 hours before Remembrance Day.

He was buried at a service at the village of Darton, near Barnsley, where he lived, on Tuesday.

Brigadier Greville Bibby, the commander of the Army in Yorkshire and the North-East, attended the funeral alongside a host of Armed Forces colleagues.

“Any death is a tragedy and three deaths is three times that,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “Obviously this will have an impact on entire communities. At the funeral there was fantastic support for the family and this just shows how the people of Yorkshire take this personally and are supporting our forces.

“Clearly there is still a challenge in providing the necessary security in Helmand Province in order to complete the task we have been set and to put the people of Afghanistan back on their feet.

“It remains a very dangerous and challenging environment, possibly one of the worst I have known in my 30 year career and our soldiers continue to be extraordinarily brave in carrying out their duties.

“The Taliban is still clearly very active.

“We are operating in their territory and although things are getting better – and there has been definite improvement since we went there in earnest in 2006 – they are still a threat.”

The third week of bidding for the Yorkshire Post Christmas charity auction comes to an end at 5pm tomorrow, following an incredible response from readers so far.

Ten new lots will be announced in Saturday’s paper.

Alternatively cheques with individual donations, payable to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, can be sent to the Editor’s Secretary, Yorkshire Post, Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 1RF.