UK's Afghanistan war effort honoured in service at St Paul's Cathedral

The Queen and the Prime Minister joined veterans and the families of the war dead for a service of commemoration

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The Independent Online

The 453 British men and women who lost their lives fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan were honoured yesterday by royalty, politicians and the head of the Anglican Church.

The Queen and the Prime Minister joined veterans and the families of the war dead for a service of commemoration in St Paul’s Cathedral and a fly past was carried out by a jets and a formation of military helicopters.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, led the service at which he publically thanks the men and women who served in Afghanistan.

"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,” he said.

"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."

The Archbishop of Canterbury led the service (PA)

During the service the Archbishop rededicated a cross made of shell casings that had adorned a memorial wall in the main Allied base in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion. The monument will form part of a new Bastion Memorial Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.

David Cameron said in his tribute to the armed forces: "We take pride in the scale of their achievements, driving out al Qaida and building up the Afghan forces so they can begin to take control of their own security.

"Thirteen years on, the terrorist threat to our country from the region has been substantially reduced. Our families are safer because of what our servicemen and women have done.

"We also pay tribute to the outstanding contribution of our civilians and aid workers who continue to risk their lives in the service of others. Their efforts underline our ongoing commitment to support the people of Afghanistan in building a new future for their country."

The ceremony was held to mark the end of the 13-year conflict and those in the congregation included the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke of Cambridge, his wife Kate, Prince Harry - who served two tours during the conflict - Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

453 British men and women died in Afghanistan (PA)

Almost 150,000 UK personnel were deployed to Afghanistan, and 453 British men and women died in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Jennifer Loughran-Dickson, whose husband Sergeant Robert Loughran-Dickson was killed while out on patrol on November 18 2009, wore her late husband’s service medals and met Mr Cameron later at a Guildhall reception.

She said after the service: "I am very proud today. It is like closure. His life will never be gone, although his spirit and his body are. Today makes you realise that the country does respect you and does respect what your husband has done in serving his country.”

Others present included Kerry Ashworth, who said a prayer as she wore the Victoria Cross posthumously awarded to her son Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who died trying to rescue his comrades in June 2012.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said: "This was the right way for the whole country to pay tribute to everyone who worked so hard and achieved so much in Afghanistan over 13 years, especially those who sustained life-changing injuries, and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Earlier, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said the 453 UK troops who died had "paid the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to live in freedom, in hope for peace, prosperity and dignity".