Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 10:22 UK

Mothers unite in memory of sons


The money will fund a bronze statue and provide support to injured soldiers

Julian Sturdy
BBC East

Helen Gray, left, and Christine Bonner
Helen Gray, left, and Christine Bonner are supporting the memorial fund

They were united by the most dreadful circumstances - the death of their sons in Afghanistan.

Now the mothers of the nine dead Royal Anglian Vikings are preparing for a 100-mile walk in their honour.

It was the idea of Christine Bonner from Cambridgeshire whose son Darren, known as Big Daz, was killed by a landmine in Helmand Province.

"After the initial shock of losing Darren, we wanted to do something positive to take away from the negative," she said.

A Royal Anglian officer assigned to support the families put Christine in touch with another mother, Helen Gray, from Leicester, whose son Chris also died in action serving with the 1st battalion.

She said: "We never think we will lose our children so we haven't got the emotions to deal with it.

"If you lose a child no-one knows what it is like except us.

We can't do anything for our boys, but we can do something for their friends who came back injured
Jan Hawkins

"It's helped us to bond and now we are really, really close. You can just phone up and just cry down the phone and they know who it is and you don't have to say a word and they know exactly how you are feeling."

Supported by the other Royal Anglian mothers, they will set off from the battalion's base at Pirbright in Surrey on 7 July.

Their destination will be Duxford in Cambridgeshire, the site of the regiment's museum and the location for a bronze statue to be erected later in the year to honour the nine dead men.

Helen Gray said: "We always tend to meet up on sad occasions so during the walk we will be able to laugh and talk about other things and raise money.

Cpl Darren Bonner, left, and Private Chris Gray
Cpl Darren Bonner, left, and Private Chris Gray died in action

"Chris would be chuffed to bits especially as his sister is also doing the walk. He would be so proud of us."

The Royal Anglian Memorial Fund has already raised almost 350,000.

It will pay for a memorial statue, and help the rehabilitation of soldiers injured in last year's Afghanistan tour.

Jan Hawkins, from Norfolk, lost her son Alex in another roadside bombing.

"We can't do anything for our boys, but we can do something for their friends who came back injured who are going to need a lot of care.

"Although the fund has raised an awful lot of money when you split that over a long time it is not going to go that far."

The nine 1st Battalion Royal Anglians who died in Afghanistan last year were Cpl Darren Bonner; Pte Chris Gray; L/Cpl Alex Hawkins; L/Cpl George Davey; Pte Robert Foster; Pte Aaron McClure; Pte John Thrumble; Capt David Hicks; Pte Tony Rawson.

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