Belfast Telegraph

Harry meets families of bomb disposal experts killed in action

Prince Harry has met families of bomb disposal experts killed in action, at a service marking the 75th anniversary of armed forces' explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units.

The prince, who did two tours in Afghanistan with the British Army, also crouched down to chat and share jokes with two sappers who lost their legs in the conflict.

The service at St Paul's Cathedral in London paid tribute to those who served as bomb disposal experts over the decades, here and abroad, from those who worked on Luftwaffe bombs in the Blitz to those who served in Northern Ireland and more recent conflicts like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It included poignant addresses from Ian Kirkpatrick, whose son Corporal Jamie Kirkpatrick was killed in Afghanistan, and from the musician and television presenter Jools Holland, who is honorary colonel of Cpl Kirkpatrick's unit, 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment, as well as serving personnel.

The congregation of 1,500 service personnel and families were also played BBC news headlines about bombings on a speaker, including that of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin and great-uncle of the Prince of Wales, who was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.

In a poignant address, Mr Kirkpatrick told the congregation: "It is extremely difficult to put into words what Jamie's loss has meant to us, his family and his many friends.

"We recall many family celebrations and events that would, under normal circumstances, be a source of happiness, but which are now inevitably a source of sadness too.

"We continue to reflect on all the ongoing events that he is now not around to witness and therefore seem somehow incomplete."

Cpl Kirkpatrick was born in Edinburgh and lived in Llanelli in South Wales. Harry spoke to his family, including his young daughter Polly, at the end of the service.

Wearing a blue civilian suit with three medals pinned to his chest, Harry also spoke to former servicemen badly injured while serving in the forces. They included Sappers Clive Smith, 30, from Walsall in the West Midlands, and Jack Cummings, 27, from Didcot in Oxfordshire. Both men lost their legs on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Mr Smith said he chatted with Harry about the Prince's Invictus Games for injured servicemen, having taken part last year in the handcycling events.

"He is always very approachable and interested in what you have to say," Mr Smith said.

Discussing the service, he said: "It was quite emotional. It brings back memories of events you would rather forget but it was a very good service."

Serving and retired members of the EOD community will deliver accounts of the conflicts and the part played by EOD units.

Officially formed in October 1940, the original Royal Engineers bomb disposal unit played an important role in the Second World War, dealing with tens of thousands of unexploded bombs in the UK and overseas.

Since then, bomb disposal has expanded from the Royal Engineers to function across the armed forces.

Mr Holland, best known for his long-running BBC Two music programme, has been honorary Colonel of the 101 Engineer Regiment since 2012.

He told the congregation that from its origins in the Second World War "this story of human courage is set in such contrast to the evil of indiscriminate destruction; and of the danger of unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and mines that remain such a threat to life and limb".

He added: "The story of the men and women who have worked in explosive ordnance disposal is the story of teamwork and bravery, and often of great personal cost and the ultimate sacrifice."

He also said it was important to remember we had once been "on the other side" and offer remembrance for German civilians who "still live with the legacy of our own weapons dropped in towns and cities that we once targeted for destruction in the battle against tyranny".

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