Ringing endorsement from bell campaigner

Lee Mackie at the casting of the Carterton Memorial Bell in London yesterday

Lee Mackie at the casting of the Carterton Memorial Bell in London yesterday

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

Just seven months ago, Lee Mackie started a campaign to raise money for a memorial bell to toll at repatriation ceremonies.

And thanks to the tireless efforts of local people – and a helping hand from the Oxford Mail – tears ran down her face yesterday as she watched her dreams come true.

Ms Mackie, who lost her 21-year-old son Jason in Afghanistan in 2009, said the bell, which will be unveiled in June, would hopefully help other families with their “unbearable” loss .

The Bampton resident said: “Losing a child is something a mother will never get over.

“It’s even harder now than it was in the year after his death. But it is wonderful for something so positive to come out of all this adversity.”

The bell, measuring 31in in diameter, was cast yesterday at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, which made Big Ben and the American Liberty Bell.

Molten metal was poured into a mould by six trained men. It will be cooled over the weekend, before being tuned over the coming weeks.

Ms Mackie said: “It’s incredible. So often people have an idea and they never come to fruition. But here we are.

“The people of Oxfordshire should be very proud.”

The bell will stand in the Memorial Garden in Norton Way, Carterton, as the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought back to RAF Brize Norton and taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The 644lb bell cost around £26,000 and the money was raised by local people.

The total was boosted by a £9,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation, the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail’s parent company.

Ms Mackie said: “My greatest wish is this will stand silent forever, but sadly the reality of war means that will not happen.

“This bell will instead echo the sentiments of the people standing there, paying their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In January, 12-year-old Ellie Simmons won a competition to design the top of the bell. The Carterton Community College pupil said she was “overwhelmed” her design of a poppy and soldier’s helmet would be part of the town for centuries to come.

Foundry works manager Mark Backhouse said: “We only cast six bells at a time so this is a special moment.

“There is no reason this bell will not stand in Carterton for the next 600 years.”

A soldier from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards has been shot dead in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Next of kin have been informed.

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