Colchester in mourning for lost soldiers

HUNDREDS of people gathered yesterday to remember the lives of five soldiers from the town who were killed in Afghanistan over the past week.

Elliot Furniss

HUNDREDS of people gathered yesterday to remember the lives of five soldiers from the town who were killed in Afghanistan over the past week.

The Union Flag above Colchester Town Hall flew at half mast and the two-minute silence at 11am was impeccably observed.

Five red roses were leant against a pillar and tearful friends and family of the five members of the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment stood alongside veterans and councillors as The Last Post was played.


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Colonel Tony Phillips, deputy commander of Colchester Garrison, and Major Aidan Coogan, the Parachute Regiment's adjutant, were among the crowds paying tribute.

Major Coogan praised the “dedication and commitment” of the battalion and thanked the town for its ongoing support.

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He said: “At this time our fullest thoughts and prayers are with the families and colleagues of those killed.

“As previously stated, 2 PARA are a professional, highly-motivated, well-trained battalion who continue to show dedication and commitment.

“Their response to the events at the weekend, when three paratroopers were killed, has been to continue operations and show determination in the completion of their mission. That determination remains in the light of events of yesterday, which led to the deaths of two more paratroopers.

“It has come as no surprise at the amount of support that has been received from the regimental family, both past and present, throughout the United Kingdom.

“It is therefore with immense pride that I am able to pay tribute to all members of the regiment whose courage, selflessness and steadfastness is a credit to the Army and this country.”

He said messages of support from the town and kindness of local people was “greatly appreciated by those in Colchester and Afghanistan”.

A group of soldiers from the battalion was applauded by the crowds as they marched down the High Street before arriving at the Town Hall.

Colchester mayor Peter Crowe also addressed the crowd and afterwards said it was a “grievous” day for the town.

He said everyone should admire the courage and dedication of the troops in Afghanistan, wishing them “every possible success” and a speedy return to Colchester.

He added: “The loss of the five men has gripped every resident in the borough. Whether they are urban or rural, it makes no difference - they're all aware of what is going on and are saddened.”

Also at the ceremony was the town's MP Bob Russell, who said it was a “sad day” but insisted the soldiers' lives had not been lost in vain.

He said: “It was going to be a sad day anyway, but hearing that two more Colchester-based soldiers had died gives it even greater significance.

“What I can say is that I actually met the chairman of the Helmand Province Council at the House of Commons on Wednesday and he gave a very uplifting speech in which he praised the British troops and gave his condolences to families, friends an colleagues of those that had died.

“He said they died trying to help them rebuild a country that for 30 years has been systematically destroyed.”

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