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Memorial bell stands ready for solemn duty
The Union Flag flies as Royal British Legion and RAF standards are lowered in salute in front of the belltower during the dedication ceremony
A SOLEMN bell tolled as the name of each fallen hero who has been repatriated to RAF Brize Norton was read out.
And Carterton’s memorial bell, dedicated at a ceremony on Saturday, will be sounded at all future repatriations.
But addressing the hundreds of people who turned up to see the bell unveiled, Lee Mackie, whose son Royal Marine Jason Mackie was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, said it was her “greatest wish” that the bell became a “white elephant” and was never needed.
The bell, she said, would “ring out the empathy we have for (soldiers’) families and friends”.
“Jason is the reason I am standing here today. He continues to inspire me on a daily basis,” she added.
Speaking afterwards, the Bampton resident, who helped lead fundraising for the bell, said: “The ceremony was absolutely fabulous. I cannot begin to tell you what it means to me to be here today. As with anything, without support and help, it would just never have happened.
“Hopefully it will mean something to the families of those who come through here.”
For the people of Carterton, the bell represents the final piece in their efforts to find a fitting way to pay tribute to those who lose their lives in service of the country since repatriation flights were moved to RAF Brize Norton from RAF Lyneham last year.
They raised nearly £30,000 to design, forge and hang the bell in just four months.
The Gannett Foundation, the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail’s parent company, donated £9,000.
Jim Lewendon, county chairman of the Royal British Legion, has organised the repatriation gatherings in Headley Way, Oxford, for more than four years. He said: “It’s a wonderful achievement to have got this bell.”
As the nation marked Armed Forces Day, the bell was unveiled and blessed by the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher.
He said: “I thought today was very special and the ceremony was very moving.
“The bell is beautiful and it looks as if it should be there.”
Before the blessing, the names of all the military personnel who have been repatriated to RAF Brize Norton were read out and the bell was rung for each one.
Corporal Alex Hayden, a Royal Marine who served with Jason Mackie, said: “Hearing the bell toll as they read out the names certainly puts the hairs on the back of your neck on end. It’s great to see this come to fruition, especially for Lee (Mackie).”
Oxford Mail group editor Simon O’Neill said: “It was a humbling experience to be present for the unveiling and heartening too to see what a community pulling together can achieve.”
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