FAMILY and friends of Eastbourne soldier Michael Pritchard, tragically killed while serving in Afghanistan, gathered for a memorial tree planting ceremony to celebrate his life.
Lance Corporal Pritchard died on December 20, 2009, while serving with the 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police, in the Sangin area, in central Helmand Province.
Exactly two years after his death, his mother Helen, sisters, grandparents, and other family and friends joined local dignitaries to remember the 22-year-old.
An Austrian Pine tree has been planted by thee Borough Council at the Redoubt Fortress in memory of Michael, adjacent to a memorial tree in honour of First World War veteran Henry Allingham, who died aged 113 as the oldest ever surviving member of any of the British Armed Forces.
A plaque at the memorial tree read, “Michael David Pritchard, 11th January 1987 – 20th December 2009. Forever young XXXX.”
Eastbourne Mayor Cllr Carolyn Heaps spoke at the tree planting ceremony and described the event as a very special day.
She said, “It is very poignant to know that it is two years since Michael died.
“We have a lovely robust tree in memory of him, and it is going to grow and it will be a wonderful tree where you can come to remember him.
“It is also touching that the tree is right next door to the tree in memory of Henry Allingham, and so we have young and old side by side, and both served their country well.”
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who also attended the ceremony, said, “This has been a very difficult and challenging time and I would also like to celebrate not only Michael, but Helen and her family for their determination to keep fighting for what is so important.
“I know you are very proud of Michael and I am sure he is proud of you too.”
The Ministry of Defence is still investigating the possibility Michael died as a result of friendly fire in Afghanistan. The results of an enquiry are still awaited.
After the ceremony, Michael’s mother Helen said, “We are honoured to have this tree, and I know Michael would be delighted to have his memory next to Henry Allingham. We are very grateful to the council.”