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‘Soldiers’ relatives need better haven’
THE FAMILIES of fallen heroes could be cared for in a bigger and better reception centre in future.
Carterton Town Council wants to extend the sports pavilion in Norton Way because it is too small to host large numbers of mourners during repatriations of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
It acts as a meeting point and gives grieving relatives a private haven away from the public both before and after the ceremonies.
But recently there have been occasions when several soldiers have been repatriated and the pavilion cannot cope.
The town council, through West Oxfordshire District Council, is appling for a £250,000 grant from the Ministry of Defence’s community covenant scheme to expand it.
Carterton deputy mayor Lynn Little, who is also a family liaison officer for the Royal British Legion meeting relatives at repatriations, said: “The size of the hall does not impinge on the way we help the families, but you cannot get 600 people into a hall that was made for 60.”
She said the hall provided a place to give the families privacy and provide them with refreshments, support and information about the day.
The application will see the pavilion extended from 69 sq m to 110 sq m, creating more space in the social area and expanding the kitchen.
Oxfordshire RBL vice president Mike Henderson said: “It would benefit repatriations because we are limited to the numbers we are allowed.”
One service family member wrote to the RBL to say: “I cannot thank your members enough for being there with endless cups of tea and coffee, along with sandwiches and kind words to say to all who were there.
“They made a very difficult day much more bearable.”
The covenant funding pot, administered by Oxfordshire County Council, aims to improve relations between military and civilian communities and the application has emphasised this.
The town council said an expansion would not only benefit repatriations but also enable civilian and forces families to come together for recreation activities.
District council spokesman Sara Long last night said the bid had been submitted to County Hall and it is waiting a response.
The repatriation of Lance Corporal James Ashworth and Corporal Alex Guy will take place today.
L Cpl Ashworth, 23, from the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, died as a result of enemy action last Wednesday.
Cpl Guy, 37, of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed in an insurgent ambush on Friday.
The plane carrying their bodies will land at RAF Brize Norton at about 1.30pm and the cortege will pass the memorial garden at about 4pm. It will arrive at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford at about 5pm.
Any changes to timings will be posted at oxfordmail.co.uk