The Living Memorial...

Every serviceman's death comes as heart rending news. In the roll call of middle east casualties here are just some of the names. Lieutenant Aaron Lewis aged 26, Lance Corporal Kirk (Rederz) Redpath aged 22, Marine Jason Mackie aged 21, Staff Sgt Chris Muir and young Marine Georgie Sparks aged 19. Corporal Stephen Allbutt was killed in 2003 and his story stands out in my mind. Before heading to Iraq, Stephen planted daffodil bulbs in his garden. Knoing that his return was scheduled for Spring, he anticipated the flowers would be in bloom to greet him. However Cpl Allbutt never did return. A garderner and a soldier, this was a man who clearly loved plants. Both sides of his life have now inspired a special tribute. The avenue of trees Peter and I have planted commemorates Stephen Allbutt and his colleagues that gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully the avenue of rememberence will still be growing tall after those of us alive today have followed Stephen Albutt and his fallencomrades over the horizon. Stephen Allbutt never lived to see the daffodils he planted, but many people in years to come will benifit indirectly from his love of growing things. Even if they never learn the full story behind the avenue of trees.

The seeds of an idea to pay tribute to our troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan came to mind in March 2003. Quite by chance I was reading an article in our newspaper about a soldier who had planted daffodil bulbs in his garden so they would be in bloom when he returned from his tour of duty in lraq. Sadly, the young man never lived to see the profusion of swaying golden crowns that herald in our spring. With time, the soldiers name faded from my mind, but the story stayed lodged. lt would be 6 years later when we stood in our Bootsale field on a bright, warm February day, watching the first tree saplings being planted. Each tree representing a soldier killed in lraq and Afghanistan (total then was at 321). At that time we had also had plaques made with each soldiers name on them so they may be placed by each tree. But, l did not realise how emotionally involved we would become as time progressed. I would like to tell you the names of each and every individual that has been killed since both wars, but that would be impossible so for the sake of practicality l have picked these few. Private John Trumble was a local lad from Essex, he was just 21 when he was killed on the 23rd August 2007 in Afghanistan. His Mother Pearl wrote this poem.”Our son the soldier, in a foreign place, just close your eyes to see a familiar face. Our son the soldier so very far away, we will be waiting with open arms on your home coming day.” On the 19th July 2009 Corporal Joey Etchells age 22 (Etch to his friends) was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. Only 6 months previously Etch had attended his best friend Simon Annis’ wedding. On the 16th August 2009 aged just 22 and married for only 6 months, Simon Annis was killed in an explosion barely a month apart from his friend. Etch loved all sport, football, cricket but he excelled in running. He leaves behind a young daughter. Simon Annis loved diving and often went on diving expeditions when he found the time. It’s worth mentioning that this brave young man died trying to save his section commander. Eleanor Dlugosz aged 19 was killed 5th April 2007 in lraq ”Ella was a caring girl who enjoyed being a medic. Helping others was who she was" (Quote from a friend)

Louis Carter was just 18, when he was killed on the 16th August 2009 his own young life cut so tragically short due to his selfless act to attempt to rescue his friend and section commander.We ask so much of these young men is it too much to ask that we remember them? Trooper Joshua (Hammy) Hammond age 18, killed 1 week before his 19th birthday on the 1st July 2009 along with Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe.

On researching and cataloguing all these brave young men and women a familiar story leapt out at me from the computer. It was the story of the Daffodil man .The very person who had inspired and instigated our project in the beginning. Staring out at me l now had a face and a name. A tide of surprise then great sadness washed over me as l felt l had been re-united with an old friend. Now we had come full circle. His name was Corporal Stephen Allbut, killed in lraq on 25th March2003 aged 35. He was married with two children and this is what his wife said at the time of his death.“He was very romantic- if we were going out anywhere he would often buy me flowers. I sometimes would find them in different rooms in the house. Just before he left for the Gulf he planted some daffodil bulbs in our garden as a surprise, so they would come up while he was away. We loved each other deeply, and words cannot express how much I will miss him”.

We hope that Stephen would approve of what we have done, we hope they all would. We still have a lot to do and it is a work in progress. Our dream is to create a natural, living memorial to encourage wild life . More hedges and trees are continually being planted and eventually an avenue on each side of a walk way will be created. Two seating areas have been built either end of this avenue so people may sit and reflect. Over the coming years visitors will be able to see the hedges and trees grow, form and nurture new life. In the winter the animals will gather underneath the trees for shelter and in the spring and summer the birds will nest and rear their young .lf we cannot spare the time to remember these young souls , we not only let them and their families down but, we let ourselves down as well . So when people ask me why we do this, l tell them that to date we have 454 reasons.