‘Emotional day’

MEMORIAL TO JAMES BACKHOUSE, AIREDALE HIGH SCHOOL - The Band of Mothers from left, Jill Murphy, Jane Whitehouse, Lucy Aldridge, Sharon Backhouse and Debbie Simpson.
MEMORIAL TO JAMES BACKHOUSE, AIREDALE HIGH SCHOOL - The Band of Mothers from left, Jill Murphy, Jane Whitehouse, Lucy Aldridge, Sharon Backhouse and Debbie Simpson.

A BAND of mothers stood united as a tribute to their hero sons – who died on the same day in Afghanistan – was unveiled in Airedale.

Sharon Backhouse, 47, said it was a “dream turned into reality” as she revealed the long-awaited memorial to Rifleman James Backhouse, 18, who was killed in an explosion with four comrades from 2nd Battalion The Rifles in July 2009.

A sculpture by Castleford artist Harry Malkin shows the faces of James and his “band of brothers” Cpl Jonathan Horne, 28, Rifleman Joseph Murphy, 18, Rifleman Daniel Simpson, 20, and Rifleman William Aldridge, 18. The soldiers’ mothers travelled from across the country to support each other during the unveiling at Airedale Academy last Saturday.

Mrs Backhouse, of Queen’s Park Drive, said: “The memorial is amazing – much better than I could have ever imagined – and very powerful.

“Even though I had seen all the plans, I didn’t expect it to look so lovely. Harry did a fantastic job with the sculpting. The gates were very poignant as they featured sunflowers and butterflies, which mean a lot to me. The building work itself was faultless and beautiful.

“The Rifles’ logo in the middle added the finishing touch and made it all the more special. The whole thing is more than I could have ever wished for and more than I thought we could ever achieve – it really is a dream turned into reality.

“It’s now a permanent reminder of those fallen in the Afghanistan conflict and of course James and his comrades. It was an emotional day.”

The memorial garden – designed with help from pupils at the Crewe Road school – was funded with £22,000 raised by Mrs Backhouse’s charity Hope 4 Heroes, The James Backhouse Memorial Trust Fund and a £25,000 donation from Wakefield Council.

The tribute was unveiled by James’ dad Andrew, 49.