Dereham’s updated war memorial is officially blessed during Armed Forces Day

A bustling town paused for quiet reflection when Dereham's updated war memorial was formally blessed during Armed Forces Day.

Shoppers stopped and watched on as current and former service personnel paraded from the Cherry Tree car park to gather at the monument this morning.

After standing untouched since 1945, the names of two soldiers - killed in conflicts nearly a century apart - have now been recorded in recognition of their sacrifice.

An existing copper panel has been updated to finally commemorate Pte Benjamin Clitheroe, a long-lost soldier killed in the Great War 95 years ago, while the name of the town's most recent fallen hero, Pte Lewis Hendry, stands alone on a new brass plaque.

The 20-year-old paratrooper was killed on patrol in Afghanistan in February and his proud family laid a wreath in his memory during the moving ceremony.

Canon Sally Theakston, the rector of Dereham, gave thanks to those listed and all the men and women serving in the armed forces today.

'Each of them was known and loved,' she said. 'Today we commemorate the addition of the names of two people who died in conflict separated by many years.'

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The new plaque results from a campaign by local members of the Royal British Legion and was inspired in part by the town's outpouring of grief following Pte Hendry's death.

More than 2,000 people lined the streets for young soldier's funeral and his mother, Katrina Hendry, today thanked the town for its continued support.

She wore the Elizabeth Cross at the blessing after it was presented to her by Prince Charles at the Colchester barracks of the Parachute Regiment earlier this month.

The silver cross, bearing the Queen's name, is granted to the next of kin of servicemen and women who died during operations or were killed as the result of terrorist action since the second world war.

David Fairweather, president of the Dereham and District Branch of the RBL said: 'Those serving in the armed forces today are entitled to have their names on the memorial. Those boys are laying down their lives and getting injured in these political campaigns. At least we won't forget them, even if the government does.'

The parade, also organised by the Dereham RBL, was lead by 864 Squadron Band ATC from Watton, followed by the standards of military associations of Dereham and district and former service personnel.

After stopping at the memorial, the parade wound down Church Street to St Nicholas Church, where a service was held.

The new plaque will remember townspeople killed during conflicts since 1945, including those in Korea, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

To suggest names, contact Rowland Hall on 01362 637595.

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