Hundreds of Armed Forces personnel who recently returned from an operational tour of Afghanistan gathered in York Minster today (2 May 2013) for a service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.
The soldiers were joined by The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu and the Armed Forces Minister, the Right Honourable Andrew Robathan MP as they paid their respects to the Armed Forces personnel that were injured or killed on active service in Afghanistan. Tragically 4th Mechanized Brigade suffered nine deaths whilst deployed on a six month tour to Helmand Province from September 2012 to April 2013.
4th Mechanized Brigade which has its headquarters in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire worked hard alongside other nations in Afghanistan in changing the way in which security is provided in Helmand. The Afghan National Security Forces have been projected into the lead while the international forces have moved into a supporting role. The Afghan people can now see that they are protected by their own security forces. Importantly, the insurgents can also see this critical development.
“This is a very special day for those of us who were deployed to Afghanistan over the last six months,” said Brigadier Bob Bruce who led the Task Force during the six-month deployment.
“The professionalism and bravery of the soldiers and marines of the 4th Mechanized Brigade has been both astonishing and humbling. They achieved a huge amount during our tour of duty and I am enormously proud of them. It is important for us now to remember our fallen and the wounded as well as to mark our achievements. It is a great privilege for us to be able to do that in the magnificent York Minster.”
This transformational tour was not without cost and the 4th Mechanized Brigade Task Force suffered nine deaths whilst deployed between October 2012 and April 2013. Family members of the fallen soldiers attended to honour the life and service of their loved ones. They heard their names read out as York Minster’s Great Peter bell tolled.
The Archbishop of York said: “Our Armed Forces are the bravest of the brave and it is a great honour to be able to welcome them home today. Too often we forget the important peacekeeping role our forces play on the international stage – they have an incredibly tough job, but never flinch from doing their duty.
“I pray every day for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in my chapel at Bishopthorpe. We should never forget their sacrifice. It is because of their courage and diligence that our freedoms in this country are protected.”
Military representatives from the US, Danish and Estonian Armies attended the service which was led by the Precentor of York Minster and Canon in Residence, the Rev Canon Peter Moger assisted by military clergy. The preacher was the Chaplain General to Her Majesty’s Land Forces, the Rev Jonathan Woodhouse and the blessing was given by the Archbishop of York.
Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robathan said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to join 4th Mechanized Brigade at this service, to pay tribute to their immense contribution to the mission in Afghanistan and, in particular, to remember those who have suffered serious injury or were tragically killed. We owe these men and women a huge debt for the outstanding contribution they have made to safeguarding the security of Afghanistan and indeed the UK and we should all be proud of them.”
The Brigade has now returned home to its base in Catterick Garrison and following some leave will return to normal duties.