Didcot street-name tribute to bomb disposal heroes

First published in News
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Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

THEY lost their lives serving their country.

But now a lasting tribute will be created in honour of seven bomb disposal heroes from Oxfordshire killed in combat.

Seven streets are being named after the soldiers on a new 126-home phase of the Great Western Park development in Didcot.

And the first sign is due to go up in about six weeks’ time.

The soldiers whose names will feature on the street signs served with 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, which has its headquarters at Vauxhall Barracks in Foxhall Road.

Town and district councillor Tony Harbour suggested the street naming in 2011 and the project – as well as the wording – has now been finalised following the approval of the soldiers’ families.

Toni O’Donnell, whose husband WO2 Gary O’Donnell, 40, died in an explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008, said: “It’s lovely to know people still think of Gary and hold him in such high regard. To know that his name is being used for this makes our whole family extremely proud.”

Mr Harbour said: “It has taken 18 months of hard work behind the scenes to get to this point and I’m delighted the street naming will go ahead after the families gave their approval. This makes sure these brave men and women are not going to be forgotten and I’m pleased this idea hasn’t fallen by the wayside.

“I think the regiment sees this tribute as a huge act of gratitude from the town to these soldiers.”

Father-of-two Mr Harbour, a former town mayor who lives on the Ladygrove estate, said he tries to stay in close contact with soldiers at the barracks.

He added: “I had met one of the soldiers, Olaf Schmid, a few times and would stay in touch with him when he was out in Afghanistan. The last time I saw him we agreed to have a drink when he got back, but he was killed just before his tour of duty ended and like everyone else I was shocked.

“The new homes where the street signs are going to be are not up yet but they could be built and occupied by the end of the year.”

Captain Jayne Reynolds, adjutant of 11 EOD Regiment, said: “We wanted to make sure the families were content with the wording for the signs before they went ahead but we now have 100 per cent agreement from them and they are pleased and proud that local people want to remember their loved ones in this way.”

More than 3,300 homes are being built on the estate off the A4130 and hundreds of families have already moved in.

One neighbouring street will be Felix Road, named after Felix the cat, the regiment’s mascot.

Another street will be named Ordnance Way, and one is called Greenfinch Road, after female soldiers serving in Northern Ireland were nicknamed greenfinches.

Last year, one of the streets was named Sir Frank Williams Avenue after the Formula 1 legend whose Grove-based team started out in Didcot.

NEVER FORGOTTEN

  • Warrant Officer 2 Gary O’Donnell, 40, of 11 EOD Regiment, who died in an explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2008.
  • Staff Sergeant Brett Linley, 29, of 11 EOD Regiment, who died in an explosion in Helmand in 2010.
  • Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, of 11 EOD Regiment, who died in an explosion in Helmand in 2009.
  • Captain Daniel Shepherd, 28, of 11 EOD Regiment, who died in an explosion in Helmand in 2009.
  • Staff Sergeant Chris Muir, 32, of the Royal Logistic Corps, who died in southern Iraq in 2003.
  • Captain Lisa Head, 29, of 11 EOD Regiment, who was injured in an explosion in Afghanistan and died of her wounds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, in April 2011.
  • Captain Dan Read, 31, of 11 EOD Regiment, who died in an explosion in Helmand in 2010.

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