Lavenham: Father of soldier Jo Woodgate who died in Afghanistan backs EADT’s Shoulder to Shoulder campaign

Tony Woodgate, the father of Jo Woodgate,  looking at the plaque in Jo's memory at All Saints Church, Chelsworth, Suffolk. 

EADT 16.2.12 Tony Woodgate, the father of Jo Woodgate, looking at the plaque in Jo's memory at All Saints Church, Chelsworth, Suffolk. EADT 16.2.12

Saturday, January 18, 2014
9:00 AM

A father whose son’s death in Afghanistan left a community bereft has announced his support for the East Anglian Daily Times’ Shoulder to Shoulder campaign.

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Lance Corporal of Horse Jonathan WoodgateLance Corporal of Horse Jonathan Woodgate

Tony Woodgate, whose son Jo was killed by a grenade blast in March 2010, said he would be donating several hundred pounds raised in memory of his son to the campaign.

The Lance Corporal of Horse in the Household Cavalry, killed on his final patrol of the tour, would have celebrated his 30th birthday today.

His funeral in Lavenham, with full military honours, brought the village to a standstill on April 23, 2010.

He was described as a “consummate, professional warrior” and “one of our finest soldiers” by the commanding officer of the regiment at the time.

After his death several of L/Cpl Woodgate’s friends hosted a fundraising gala evening at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club in his memory. More than £6,000 was raised, which funded a plaque in Lavenham’s Market Square and a large donation to Help for Heroes.

Although L/Cpl Woodgate was born in Chelsworth and buried there, he spent more than half his life in Lavenham and had many friends in the village.

Having erected the plaque and made a donation to the Blues and Royals in which 
L/Cpl Woodgate served, his father decided to donate the rest of the money to Shoulder to Shoulder.

“Because of what happened to Jo I think it’s a very, very worthwhile charity,” he said. “It’s just a pity that it takes a charity to look after these boys considering they have put their lives on the line in the first place for Queen and country, but having said that I couldn’t think of a better charity.

“It’s the very least we can do when you think that these boys literally put their life on the line, and my heart goes out to anybody who has lost a relative.”

L/Cpl Woodgate attended Great Cornard Upper School before joining the Army Foundation College in 2001. After training he moved to Windsor and the Household Cavalry Regiment, before serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He died on his second tour of Afghanistan.

Previously L/Cpl Woodgate had spoken of having “cheated death” after his best friend was killed beside him in an American “friendly fire” incident in Iraq.

However L/Cpl Woodgate preferred not to burden his family with the travails of his wartime service. “I often asked him about what was going on and he’d say, ‘just stuff’,” said his father. “His mates in the army, they all told their parents the same.”

It was on March 26, 2010, as L/Cpl Woodgate was walking towards the helicopter that would take him away from his final patrol of the tour in Afghanistan, that the group came under small arms fire just east of Sangin.

L/Cpl Woodgate was killed when he took the brunt of the explosion of a grenade thrown from behind a wall.

On the day of his funeral in Lavenham shopkeepers shut and the police had to regulate the traffic because so many people attended. Mr Woodgate said he was amazed by the number of people who contacted him to pay tribute to his popular and courageous son.

“He was a real fun loving young guy,” he said. “He would be 30 now and he lived for the army.

“He was also an excellent young artist, he would sketch anything. In his job he was into reconnaissance and his drawing skills came into their own because he would sketch what he was seeing and pass it on. He was always up for a laugh and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

“It’s now coming up to four years and I think I have come to terms with it well enough. I’m tremendously proud of him obviously.

“You know, time goes by and time is a great healer, but you never forget that things aren’t quite as sharp as they were. As much as we’d like it to time doesn’t stand still, life goes on.”

The Shoulder to Shoulder campaign is working with the Royal British Legion to 
help military veterans and former personnel.

All the money raised will be used to help people in Suffolk and north Essex.

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