Service men and women remembered

The families of service men and women gathered at an emotional service in memory of those killed in the line of duty.

The names of 59 members of the UK Armed Forces who died in 2011 were engraved on the Portland stone wall panels at the National Memorial Arboretum and unveiled in the dedicated annual act of remembrance.

A congregation of around 350 people made up of the families, friends and loved ones of those who died listened to the 40-minute service, many wiping tears from their eyes and holding hands as they said prayers, sang hymns and listened as each of the 59 names were read out.

Bishop John Kirkham, former bishop to the Armed Forces who led the service, which is held within the walls of the Armed Services Memorial in Alrewas, Staffordshire, said he did not find the occasion any easier since it began four or five years ago.

"I always find it a most moving occasion," he said. "It's very hard, I find very often, to talk to people. I feel deeply their grief and their sorrow. And to know what they must have gone through and what they must still be going through - something they have to live with forever.

"When they know they have lost someone young, so enthusiastic for what they were doing, and suddenly to know that they are no more with them here and are just united still by love. I find it very, very moving and quite upsetting."

Sue Freeth, director of operations for the Royal British Legion, said the yearly ceremony was something that gave comfort to many of the families.

"It's incredibly important that the families of those people who've given the ultimate sacrifice know the nation is thinking about them and that there is a visible record that all the public can see of that commitment that was given," she said. "It's a place for them to come and remember particularly and feel close to that individual."

Many members of the congregation wore the Elizabeth Cross pinned to their clothing - an award which was created in 2009 to provide national recognition for the families of Armed Forces personnel who have died in the line of duty.

Vice Admiral Sir John Dunt KCB, chairman of the Armed Forces Memorial Trust, said the number of names engraved on the wall last year, for those killed in 2010, was almost double that of 2011, but each and every life lost was extremely important.