Barnsley has launched the region’s first HM Armed Forces Commemorative Walkway in the town centre which will serve as a memorial to those who have served – and been lost – in defence of the country and its citizens.
The walkway features granite slabs, inscribed with details of both military units with local significance and individuals who deserve recognition, with a dozen in place for an opening ceremony conducted by Mayor of Barnsley Coun Pauline Markham.
It time, the walkway will be extended with more slabs and will form a focal point between Westgate and Shambles Street to provide a point of contemplation for those who have lost relatives.
The first stone is dedicated to Private Matthew Thornton from the fourth battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, who lost his life in Afghanistan in November 2011. Described as a gifted, hardworking and determined soldier, Matthew’s family attended the ceremony to pay tribute.
The event was attended by Dan Jarvis, South Yorkshire Mayor and former solider, who is the Labour candidate for the Barnsley Central seat in the forthcoming General Election.
He said: “This is important because we should take every opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice and service of people.
“Barnsley has a long and proud track record of doing that and it is particularly important the next generation understand why it is important to do it.”
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Wendy Lowder, executive director of communities at Barnsley Council, said: “We’re delighted to open our very own commemorative walkway as a dedication to those who have and continue to serve our country. It’s a wonderful way to honour the service and sacrifice for our freedom that we too often take for granted.
“We’re proud to raise the curtain on the very first walkway in Yorkshire. We hope that it can be a true tribute to our armed forces and their families, and hope that the community will see the impact of preserving our history.”
Michael Thornton, Private Matthew Thornton’s father, said: “Matthew was a polite young man who took time out to help the other soldiers around him if they were struggling. He loved the army and comradery and was honoured to be corner guard at the cenotaph in Barnsley in 2010.
“The feedback from his Afghanistan camp was that he conducted himself more than a territorial soldier and he went on to receive the Rushworth Trophy in 2010. His mother and I are extremely proud of his achievements, and we’re pleased that we’ll be able to honour his name on Yorkshire’s first commemorative walkway.”
Armed forces communities and their families can find further support by visiting www.barnsley.gov.uk/armed-forces.