There is finally a national Gulf War memorial, thanks to the efforts of Granthamians who served together in the conflict.
In 2013, the Journal reported how Grantham childhood friends, and later comrades, Kevin Doughty and Alan Hunt, had set up the Gulf War (90-91) Memorial Trust Appeal, to right the wrong of there being no national memorial to the 47 servicemen who gave their lives in the battle.
They set themselves a target to have the long overdue monument unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on the 25th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War – February 28, 2016. And this is exactly what happened on Sunday.
The striking steel sculpture was revealed in a moving service, attended by hundreds of servicemen and women, relatives and supporters.
Chairman of the appeal, Kevin Doughty, said: “I am very proud. The memorial is a baby that we have nurtured from day one, and seen it grow, and we have grown with it. To see the amount of people that came to the service on Sunday was very touching.”
Kevin, now 46, remembers that he spent his 21st birthday out in the Gulf, serving as a combat medical technician. He was one of around 50 other servicemen from the Grantham area sent to help liberate Kuwait, including friend Alan. The pair were joined by fellow Gulf War veteran Kerry Fuller to set up the memorial appeal four years ago.
Also on the commitee is Kevin’s cousin, Captain Andy Kerr RE, who is still serving with the British Army.
“We are three Grantham lads who grew up in the town and were in the same year at school together – Andy and Alan went to St Hugh’s and I went to King’s,” said Kevin. “And then we signed up together.”
Having shared the experience of what Alan describes as a “short, yet incredibly violent and toxic war,” the friends were shocked to discover the lack of a memorial. With the help of a family liaison officer, they contacted relatives of 46 of those killed, who on Sunday gathered to see their loved ones’ names finally inscribed in a fitting tribute. Among them were those who had joined the appeal’s committee – Toni and Natasha, daughters of Corporal Alan ‘Geordie’ Bolam, of the Royal Corps of Transport, who was killed on New Year’s Eve in 1990.
Designed by RAF veteran Ian Beedles, and created by apprentices at HMF Precision Steel in Newcastle-under-Lyme, every detail of the memorial has been thought out to ensure it is full of symbolism. As Kevin explains: “The three pillars represent the three branches of the armed forces, with the circle of solidarity at the top. On this there is the inscription in three languages – Latin, Arabic and English, and below 47 concentric stones with the names of those who were killed. The black stone has the reverse of the Gulf War Medal, and underneath 48 poppies from the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall have been interred. The 48th represents those veterans who have died since.”
Kevin has also sought greater recognition for the impact of the Gulf War on those who survived the battle, but continued to fight against post-traumatic stress, or Gulf War syndrome. Kevin adds: “We’re not allowed to call it that though, because it is seen as too political.” However, he has seen first-hand the effects, and knows local comrades who have taken their own lives.
“That’s why we decided on the chosen epitaph for the memorial,” adds Kevin. “It is dedicated to the 47, those who have subsequently passed on, and those still suffering ‘long after the guns fell silent’.”
Kevin himself suffered from Gulf War syndrome, alcoholism and homelessness in London, where he said he was spat at and urinated on. These dark days are now behind him, with the veteran now working as a high court bailiff. Yet the memorial has remained his chief employment.
“For the last four years, every spare minute has been spent on the memorial, and the fund-raising. I’m absolutely over the moon to see it all come together and click into place. And all with military precision,” he said.
Sunday’s service also saw an evocative fly-past by an RAF GR4 Tornado, repainted in ‘desert pink’ for the occasion. The invited VIPs included Kuwaiti ambassador Khaled Al-Duwaisan, in honour of the fact that half of the funds came from the country.
“The people of Kuwait couldn’t have done more for us,” said Kevin. “We were invited to the embassy in March last year where we were given our second cheque, of £25,000, after the £10,000 they gave in 2013.
“They are a very grateful nation for what we did in the Gulf.”
n Video footage taken from above the service by a drone camera is available to view at www.granthamjournal.co.uk