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Heartbroken mum of soldier killed by IRA bomb 30 years ago unveils memorial in his name

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 23/08/2016

Mitchell Bertram’s mother Catherine unveils a memorial bench in her home village of Cramlington in Northumberland
Mitchell Bertram’s mother Catherine unveils a memorial bench in her home village of Cramlington in Northumberland
Mitchell Bertram, who was killed by the IRA

A mother has unveiled a moving tribute to her beloved son - fulfilling a wish to preserve his memory 30 years after he was murdered by the IRA.

Mitchell Bertram was just 20 when he was killed by a roadside bomb near Crossmaglen.

A soldier with the Royal Anglian Regiment, he had been in the Army for two years and was on his second posting to Northern Ireland.

It was a loss which his heartbroken mother Catherine never got over.

Now almost 70, she wanted a permanent memorial to her son and Carl Davies, a second soldier killed in the attack.

Unable to pay for it herself, Catherine launched an online campaign, and was stunned by the public's response.

After donations piled in, quickly meeting her £1,400 target, she was able to unveil a memorial bench at the weekend in her home village of Cramlington, near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

"It will be nice, when I'm not here, for people to remember him," she said.

Mitchell and his friend Carl died in the IRA attack on July 9, 1986.

The bomb had been placed in a vehicle abandoned close to an Army observation post at Ballsmill, about 400 metres from the border.

The 700lb device was detonated by remote control as four members of an Army patrol were examining it.

Mitchell and Carl were killed and two others were injured.

In a cruel twist of fate, Mitchell died on the day he was due to return home on leave.

His family had been preparing a party to celebrate his 21st birthday.

But at the last minute he had been asked to stay and help with the task of maintaining security around the observation posts.

Catherine added: "It devastated the family. I miss him every day."

With this year marking the 30th anniversary, Catherine wanted to do something to ensure the memory of her son and his comrade would live on.

She settled on erecting a bench similar to one she had seen dedicated to another soldier from her son's regiment who had died.

But, unable to pay for the £1,400 cost herself, she had to try and raise the money.

She was stunned when donations came flooding in after her heartbreaking story featured in the pages of the local newspaper, the Newcastle Chronicle.

The bench, decorated with poppies and the figures of soldiers, was unveiled on Sunday.

It includes the words "both gone too soon" and acknowledges that the bench was funded through generous donations from the public.

Family, friends and Mitchell's former comrades from the Royal Anglian Regiment travelled up to the Northumberland village to pay their respects.

They included Kevin Clark and Danny Feve, who were caught up in the bomb.

Catherine added: "It really chokes me up when I think of all these people coming all this way and that they hold him in such high regard."

She added: "I just want to thank everybody."

Catherine visits her son's grave regularly. She will be there next Monday to mark what would have been his 51st birthday.

Carl Davies, the second victim, was 24 and was on his third tour of duty in Northern Ireland.

He was married to a woman from Londonderry and, at the time, it was reported that the couple were expecting their second child a week after he was killed.

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