Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:06 UK

Soldiers' mothers make MoD plea

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Denise Harris: "Afghan Heroes is being formed as our mothers' legacy"

The mothers of seven soldiers killed during the Army's bloodiest 24 hours in Afghanistan say more should be done for close families who are not next of kin.

The Ministry of Defence should offer extended families the same aftercare as wives, they told reporters in Bristol.

The women have set up a charity - Afghan Heroes - to help the bereaved and those on the front line.

The MoD said it welcomed the charity and was looking at ways to work with the mothers.

'Devastating news'

Denise Harris, whose son Cpl Lee Scott, 26, was killed in an explosion, said: "The MoD does its best for next of kin... but for the extended families there isn't any support. We need the support."

A total of eight soldiers, three of whom were teenagers, were killed on 9 and 10 July this year.

Their families witnessed their coffins being carried from a C17 aircraft at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire a few days later.

If more than 200 people were killed in a major accident or explosion and thousands more injured, there would be charities set up within days to support the families
Denise Harris

Ms Harris, 46, from Somerset, said: "The 9th and 10th of July were the worst recorded 24 hours in Afghanistan this year. This is when our world fell apart and our sons died in operations throughout the Helmand province.

"They were soldiers doing their job. We, the mothers, have a special bond as our boys came home together. The grief for our families and everyone who knew them has been too painful to bear.

"We feel that there is a need to provide support to all the family members."

She hopes branches of her charity across the country will cushion the blow for others.

It will operate for a minimum of five years from the end of the British military presence in Afghanistan, she said.

'Key priority'

Ms Harris added: "If more than 200 people were killed in a major accident or explosion and thousands more injured, there would be charities set up within days to support the families.

"Afghan Heroes has been formed as our mothers' legacy. Sadly almost every week another family hears the devastating news that their loved ones will not be coming home."

She was joined at the launch by Lucy Aldridge, from Herefordshire, Sharon Backhouse, from Castleford, West Yorkshire, Carol Brackpool, from West Sussex, Deborah Simpson, from Croydon, Jillian Murphy, from Birmingham and Jane Whitehouse, from Walsall.

The MoD said it welcomed the charity and was looking at ways to work with it.

"The welfare of our service personnel and their families, especially those who have lost a loved one, is a key priority for us," a spokesman said.

"Bereaved families are supported through Visiting Officers who act as liaisons between families and the services and assist with matters including repatriations and funerals.

"VOs also establish links with the various agencies and service charities to provide ongoing support and help the family adjust to life without their loved one. The support is offered for as long as the family require it."



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