A Service of Commemoration… for all who served in Afghanistan
On Friday, 13th March RAF Service men and women from Wyton paid tribute to members of the Armed Forces past and present who served on operations in Afghanistan, during a special Service of Commemoration in Lincoln Cathedral.
A contingent of 550 RAF personnel from across the east of England attended the special Service of Commemoration in Lincoln Cathedral, a place of great symbolic importance for the RAF because of Lincolnshire’s role as ‘bomber’ country during World War II, the Cathedral used as a focal point by returning bomber aircraft.
The service at Lincoln Cathedral paid tribute to all those RAF personnel who worked to make Afghanistan safer and more stable, and reflected on the 453 Servicemen and women who lost their lives during the campaign. Along with RAF veterans, RAF Wyton personnel and their families were joined at the service by their colleagues from Coningsby, Cranwell, Digby, Henlow, Honington, Marham, Scampton, Waddington, and Wittering. The Queen’s Colours of the RAF College Cranwell and the RAF Regiment were formally laid onto the altar by the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, while the standards of fifteen RAF Sqns which took part in operations in Afghanistan were also displayed in the Cathedral.
OC Trg & Spt Sqn, Sqn Ldr Andy Callander led the RAF contingent from Wyton at the Service of Commemoration. After the service, he paid his own tribute to the service men and women who deployed on operations to Afghanistan. He said:
“It is very important to mark the sacrifice made by so many service men and women, and to publicly acknowledge their extraordinary courage and dedication.”
“Over the past 13 years, a great many Armed Forces personnel from RAF Wyton have deployed to Afghanistan on operational missions, and they can be proud of the part they played in reducing the threat to the United Kingdom.”
“From an RAF perspective, today was notable for the wide range of ranks, expertise and backgrounds of the RAF personnel taking part, and I was very proud to be associated with them in this great Cathedral.”
Speaking of his pride in the role of the Armed Forces, and the part played by personnel from RAF Wyton in operations in Afghanistan, CO RAF Wyton, Wg Cdr Ola Fashade said:
“On behalf of my predecessors, who served as CO at RAF Wyton since the onset of operations in Afghanistan in 2001, I would like to convey the gratitude we all have for the immense courage and commitment shown by our service personnel while deployed on operational missions in Afghanistan. I think it is also important to recognise the support to operations provided by service personnel, civil servants and contractors at both RAF Wyton and Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge, many of whom took on additional tasking in the absence of those colleagues deployed.”
Wg Cdr Fashade also took the opportunity to acknowledge the support that service men and women from RAF Wyton had received from their local communities since the onset of operations in Afghanistan. He said:
“Armed Forces personnel engaged in operational theatres often find themselves in difficult and dangerous conditions. The support given to our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and their families at home, was really important. I believe RAF Wyton has a great friendship with its local community, and I once again look forward to celebrating this special relationship at Armed Forces Day later this year.”
Cpl Chris Lear (27) from RAF Wyton returned from a six and a half month ‘Op HERRICK’ deployment on 20th January 2014, having served at both Lashkar Gah and Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Speaking after the Service of Commemoration in Lincoln Cathedral, he said:
“As much as it is important to acknowledge the tremendous effort of the service men and women here today, who took part in Op HERRICK, for me the commemoration service isn’t for us, it’s a chance to remember the sacrifice of those we lost.”
“I am tremendously proud to have played my part, and I wear my Op HERRICK medal with great pride. However, I think the biggest thing that I will take away from my time in Afghanistan is what our families went through back home. Each service man and woman trains for weeks and months before deploying overseas, and know exactly what they are supposed to be doing. We just get on with it, but for our families back home, it’s the ‘not knowing’ what is going on that is the hardest part. They do their best to carry on regardless, and I think the families of service personnel deserve a lot of credit for their support and robustness through thick and thin.”
Other events were held across the UK to mark the day, including a national service at St Paul’s Cathedral, in which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh joined members of the Armed Forces, veterans and the next of kin of deceased personnel.