Designed by the acclaimed sculptor Paul Day, these two large stone monoliths supporting a bronze medallion depicting a battlefield scene from the desert are a fitting tribute to two conflicts in which the return of coffins to repatriation ceremonies at Royal Wootton Bassett became an all-too-frequent occurrence as the UK’s death toll mounted with monotonous regularity.
Located in the shadow of the Ministry of Defence, it’s a powerful reminder of this country’s enduring debt to the Armed Forces – and its duty to ensure they have the very best kit and equipment when they’re asked to risk their lives in the name of freedom. Most fitting of all, this imposing tribute includes no names of the fallen, including the many service personnel from Yorkshire who made the ultimate sacrifice, because of a conscious decision to acknowledge their civilian colleagues whose selfless bravery has never been given due recognition until now.
Though the Queen and senior members of the Royal family were present for a heartfelt service of dedication, it was inevitable that Tony Blair would be the focus of attention. Though some relatives of the fallen lamented the then PM’s presence, there would have been a greater outcry if he had not attended. Moving forward, let’s hope – and pray – that Theresa May never has to take the invidious decisions that Mr Blair, and the country, faced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks against the free world. If only hindsight was a practical and pragmatic foreign policy.