Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 17:43 UK

Widow gets first Elizabeth Cross

Karen Upton
Karen Upton said she was honoured to receive the award

The widow of a Nottingham soldier killed in Afghanistan has been presented with the first Elizabeth Cross at his funeral.

Warrant officer Sean Upton, 35, was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Helmand Province last month.

Karen Upton was given the medal shortly before the funeral at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire.

It is awarded to next of kin of armed forces personnel killed on active service, in recognition of their loss.

This is the first time the name of a reigning monarch has been given to a new award since the George Cross was instituted in 1940.

Mrs Upton, 32, said: "It is an absolute honour to receive the very first Elizabeth Cross in Her Majesty's name and comforting to feel the support of Queen and Country.

"Sean and I grew up together, were childhood sweethearts and soulmates. He was a loving husband and devoted father."

She added: "I will wear this Elizabeth Cross in his honour with pride and treasure it always."

Sean Upton
Sean Upton had served in the army for 19 years

Following the ceremony, the family joined hundreds of other mourners in the church for WO Upton's funeral.

The service was led by Reverend John McGregor, padre of the 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, who read out a poem written by WO Upton's children, Ewan, 10, and seven-year-old Hollie.

The poem read: "My dad Sean, he was a hero. He was just like Rambo. He was the best.

"He beat the rest. But now he is gone.

"Where is he? Our dad, he's in our chest, we love you Dad, we will never forget.

"You're the hero, you're the best."

WO Upton had been in the army for 19 years, serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Cyprus and Bosnia.

Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said: "We as a nation owe much to servicemen like WO Upton, who gave his life fighting for our security and freedom.

"But we all also owe a great debt to his family. The presentation of this first Elizabeth Cross in the name of Her Majesty The Queen is a lasting symbol of the entire nation's gratitude and respect."

He was one of 22 British soldiers who died in Afghanistan in July - the bloodiest month for British forces since the mission began in October 2001.

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