MEMBERS of Britain’s Armed Forces who fought and died in Afghanistan were today publicly thanked during a service held in their memory.
The end of the 13-year conflict was marked by a ceremony of commemoration at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, paid tribute to all those who served, leaving behind family, facing danger and suffering injury.
Almost 150,000 UK personnel were deployed to Afghanistan, and 453 British men and women died in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.
The fallen included Private Damien Jackson, 19, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear. 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who died in 2006.
In his address the Archbishop said: “Today is a moment for us to say thank you: thank you to all who served, whatever your role.”
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh led the nation in remembering their sacrifices, and the efforts of others.
They sat at the head of the congregation, which included the Prime Minister David Cameron, senior members of the royal family, leading military figures and veterans.
Archbishop Welby told those within St Paul’s: “‘Great is your faithfulness’ says the prophet Jeremiah, turning to God in a time of deep distress.
“As our nation honours at this service all of you who have served in Afghanistan - forces personnel and many others, alongside so many of other nations - I ask you to hear those same words today, reverberating around our land: great is your faithfulness. You know about faithfulness.
“We thank you for your faithfulness: you who left family behind, you who trained hard, you who did not turn from danger, you who suffered injury and you who risked yourselves to care for the injured.
“I’m told that each wounded person was supported by up to 80 others by the time they got home. Great is your faithfulness.
“We also thank those of you who stayed behind, who let your loved ones go: you who worried for their safety each day and took your phone to your bedside each night, you who lived with the pining of children, as well as your own fears. Great is your faithfulness.”
“And we honour the faithfulness of all those who gave up their lives to give peace and security for others.”
During the service the Archbishop rededicated a cross made of shell casings that adorned a memorial wall in the main Allied base in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion.
It forms part of a new Bastion Memorial Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.
Prayers were said for the fallen, civilians left behind while their loved ones served in Afghanistan, and for the people of the troubled Middle East country and its leaders.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani told the BBC the 453 UK troops had “paid the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to live in freedom, in hope for peace, prosperity and dignity”.