THE parents of a fallen South Tyneside soldier now have a special place they can sit to remember their daughter.
Elsie and Colin Manning lost Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliott – one of their five children – in November 2006.
The 34-year-old Intelligence Corps member was killed along with another soldier and two Royal Marines when a launch they were travelling in was blown up near Basra, Iraq.
She was the first female British soldier to die in the Iraq War.
Thanks to the Forces Support charity, Mrs Manning, 70, and Mr Manning, 69, have had a special garden makeover – complete with a special place to remember their daughter.
The couple, of Lake Avenue, South Shields, were visited by workers from Forces Support, which was set up in honour of service personnel who have lost their lives in recent conflicts.
The organisation provides general maintenance around the home and garden for service families who have lost a loved one.
Forces Support raised the grassed area of Mr and Mrs Manning’s garden and evened it out so it’s easier to walk on.
They also built an arbour – a wooden seat with a roof – which bears a memorial plaque for Sharron.
Mrs Manning, a grandmother-of-six, said: “The garden is absolutely fantastic. The boys have done a brilliant job. I’m overwhelmed. It’s beautiful and they’ve worked so hard to do it.
“I really appreciate it, and I’m sure Sharron will be watching and saying how gorgeous it is. We just want to say a ‘big thank’ you to everybody.”
She added: “This is somewhere for us to just come and sit and reflect. It’s really beautiful, and I’m sure we’ll be spending a lot of time out here.
“There’s a huge difference in the garden. The family can come over and the kids can play on the grass – as long as they don’t mess it up.
“The lads haven’t stopped for three days, they’ve been brilliant. The garden was a mess before, it was all up and down. I have knee problems and was frightened to walk on it in case I fell. Now it’s fantastic.”
The work was carried out over three days by the charity’s support team, project manager Andy Morton and apprentice Richard Howard.
Mr Morton said: “The charity is all about giving support to the families of servicemen and women who have lost their lives.
“The work we do and memorials we install are always well appreciated.” The materials for the work were supplied by the South Shields branch of builders’ merchants Travis Perkins.
The firm’s assistant branch manager, Andy Campbell, and sales worker, Martin Bootes, went along to see the finished project.
Mr Campbell said: “We were very, very pleased to help. Travis Perkins has helped with this charity across the country so we’re very happy to be a part of this project.
“The garden looks great. They’ve done a fantastic job.”
* To find out more about the charity, go to www.forcessupport.org.uk