Service Children Remember Innocent Victims Of War

It was a moving moment for three school children from Buckinghamshire when they laid a wreath at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, November 20th 2012, to remember children traumatised by war.

The three children, of Armed Forces parents at Halton and Naphill, Bobby Brettell and Dylan and Rhys Cheedy, joined about 40 from around the south of England for the first Innocent Victims’ Memorial service of its kind in Britain. With them, to mark the occasion, were Buckinghamshire County Council Chairman, Marion Clayton, and Joy O’Neill, founder of the Service Children’s Support Network and Chairman of Governors at Halton Combined School. The memorial service was led by the Abbey’s Canon Jane Hedges and the Vicar of High Wycombe, the Rev Hugh Ellis.

The Innocent Victims’ Memorial service was a significant milestone for Reading University Professor, Martin Parsons, whose research over 30 years into the impact of war on civilian children has convinced him they are forgotten, invisible victims of conflict.

Prof Parsons, who worked with the Abbey to hold the memorial service, said: “There is so much evidence of war-related trauma in children that it simply cannot be ignored. The idea of this service is to make people more aware of the effects that war has on children and to get Parliament and local authorities to adopt November 20 as a War Child Remembrance Day, as it is in some other countries.”

County Council Chairman Marion Clayton, whose family was evacuated to Norfolk in 1939, was delighted to have been invited. Marion, who is also Champion for the Armed Forces in Buckinghamshire, said: “The impact on children of war, the separation and the uprooting that happens to them in war, have been overlooked for far too long. I hope this is the beginning of an annual event recognising the gravity of this impact on young people.”

Bobby’s mother, Helen Brittell, from RAF Halton, who accompanied the children to the Abbey, said: “It’s really good to have service families and children involved in what’s happened today at the Abbey. It’s particularly important for service children to understand that has happened to some of their friends’ parents.”

Dylan’s and Rhys’s mother, Emma Cheedy, from RAF High Wycombe, who accompanied the children to the Abbey, said: “It’s important to remember children who’ve been affected by recent conflict, especially service children whose parents have been killed in places like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring my own children, whose Dad is currently away on active service, to pay their respects on behalf of their peers.”

As the group of service children admired the floral tributes, Joy O’Neill, whose daughter Tegen, herself a service child, attended the service, said: “It’s wonderful to be here to take time to remember children affected by war.” ν