Gunfire at a service in Bosnia, where it all began: In London and Gornji Vakuf, Britain remembers victims of war

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The Independent Online
CROAT AND MUSLIM forces in Gornji Vakuf observed a ceasefire yesterday to enable the British Army to honour its dead.

The Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Gornji Vakuf had a special poignancy. It was the first time the Army had marked it in the Bosnian town, shattered and burnt after weeks of constant fighting. It was here that the one British soldier killed in Bosnia, L/Cpl Wayne Edwards, 23, died on 15 January. Although the town was quiet, gunfire crackled in the distance during the two- minute silence and the Last Post.

This Remembrance Sunday marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the 'war to end all wars'. That war was triggered by an incident in Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, where a Serb nationalist shot an Austrian archduke. Seventy-five years on, many of the names associated with that war are with us again: Sarajevo, Belgrade, the Balkans.

The British had planned to hold the service on the bridge where a stone marks the spot at which L/Cpl Edwards died, hit by a ricocheting bullet which passed unluckily down into his Warrior armoured vehicle. But the ceasefire was considered too fragile, the risks too great, and the service was held in camp. Liaison officers from both sides were there, and made telephone calls up to the last minute to ensure the ceasefire was maintained.

The commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, laid the wreath against two small, white oil drums on the helicopter landing pad inside the base.

The Guards maintained the precision you would expect outside Buckingham Palace. One hundred and twenty-five men of all ranks were on parade, in brilliant blue United Nations berets, as yet unfaded by the sun and the snow, and the company colours, glittering gold and maroon, made a brave contrast with the mixture of ice and mud that formed the parade ground.

The padre, Robert Green, read the service. 'We will remember them.' The assembled troops repeated the words, the mournful tones of the Last Post wafted past a white UN truck, its door smashed in, the truck in which a Danish driver was killed.

There was a crack and a thump in the middle of the Last Post, distant firing between the Bosnian army and the Croats.

The ceasefire had held for more than 25 hours. Yesterday afternoon, another ceremony was held in the Guards' main base at Vitez, where the other two companies

reside.

The hills around Vitez, too, echoed to the sound of gunfire. The weather was clear, and for the first time in days the combatants could see their targets.

German 'hypocrisy', page 8

(Photograph omitted)

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