WO2 Lenachan and SSgt King of 871 Sqn, 162 Regt RLC were invited to attend the unveiling of the memorial by H M The Queen on Thursday the 9th March 2017 at Horse Guards Parade. Having both served in Iraq and Afghanistan they were invited by Her Majesty’s Government to mark the unveiling at Victoria Embankment gardens. Fortunately, despite being March in the UK, the weather was glorious.
The memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens recognizes the contribution of both civilians and Armed Forces personnel who served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan and who supported them back home. It also honours those who worked on the humanitarian side of operations, whether in a military or civilian role including areas such as aid distribution, education and healthcare, infrastructure and governance. The memorial is for these men and women and for their families, as a national monument recognizing, praising and remembering with gratitude the unstinting and selfless commitment for all those, military and civilian, who served their country in support of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The memorial itself was designed by sculptor Paul day which features two large stones – one representing Iraq and the other Afghanistan linked by a giant, two-sided bronze medallion depicting the theme of duty and service. One side of the medallion portrays the military effort and the other side pays tribute to the UK civilians and their contributions.
The drumhead service started at 11.00 am with H M The Queen in attendance along with a large number of other Royals including his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, The Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. The service was led by the three Armed Forces Chaplains with music from various bands including the Band of H M Royal marines Collingwood and the Band of the Scots Guards. The readers were from a variety of backgrounds including an MOD civilian. Music was played from 10.25 am and at 10.40 am the drumhead was built and the Colour placed upon it. At 10.58 H M The Queen arrived followed by the playing of the National Anthem with the Chaplain of the Fleet, The Venerable Ian Wheatley welcoming the congregation. Various readings and prayers were read out along with a poem.
On the closing of the final blessing and The National Anthem the Queen’s Piper played as H M The Queen departed to the memorial in Victoria Embankment gardens for the short unveiling ceremony. A prayer of dedication at the memorial was read out along with several other prayers. On completion of the ceremony at the memorial the Colour was recovered and the Drumhead on Horse Guards deconstructed followed by the departure of the Royal Family.
Guests were then invited, including service personnel, to a small buffet until 2.00pm. Guests were talked to by various dignitaries including various members of the Royal family. WO2 Lenachan and SSgt King then took the opportunity to have photographs taken at the memorial before departing on what was a very memorable day in London.
Major Mike Deck QVRM
OC 871 Sqn, 162 Regt RLC