Staffordshire Regiment Museum creates poignant exhibition in memory of soldier killed in Afghanistan

A poignant exhibition in memory of a British soldier killed in Afghanistan has opened in Lichfield.

A cross created by Gareth Bellingham's comrades

A cross created by Gareth Bellingham’s comrades

The Staffordshire Regiment Museum has created the Gareth Bellingham Bedspace.

The exhibit uses items belonging to Private Bellingham, who died while on patrol in Helmand Province in June 2011.

His unit from the 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regimant was out on patrol, detecting and clearing explosive devices when they came under fire. Despite the fierce battle, the 22-year-old from Newcastle-under-Lyme broke cover to aid an Afghan civilian who had been injured by land mine, but was shot in the neck.

Pte Bellingham's kit bag

Pte Bellingham’s kit bag

His parents Les and Kim have given the museum his kit bag from the tour of duty to create the new exhibit.

Curator Danielle Pritchard, who is responsible for creating the Bedspace, said: “It was an honour and a deeply moving experience to create a space in which to present Pte Bellingham’s personal belongings.

“My thanks go out to Mr and Mrs Bellingham for their unceasing support, and for allowing us to bring Gareth’s story to the public in such a powerful and personal manner.

“We hope that we have done him justice.”

The exhibit also shows the everyday living conditions of frontline soldiers. It features Pte Bellingham’s boots, socks, kit bag, clothing and even his magazines. His knife and fork sit on a shelf, and the walls are hung with items created by his comrades, including a cross that was built by them in Afghanistan, mounted with a photograph of Gareth taken on the day he died.

His boots are still covered with the sand and dust of the streets, and a video presentation takes the visitor through Gareth’s service, culminating with video of a seldom-seen repatriation ceremony as it took place in Afghanistan, where serving soldiers took their leave of their fallen comrades.

Amongst the belongings was a poem that Pte Bellingham carried with him:

With a Friend,
Look God I have never spoken to you,
And now I want to say, “How do you do?”
You see, God, they told me you did not exist,
And I, like a fool, believed all this.

Last night, from a shell-hole, I saw your sky,
I figured that they had told me a lie.
Had I taken time before to see things you had made,
I’d sure have known they weren’t calling a spade a spade.

I wonder, God, if you would shake my poor hand?
Someway I feel you will understand.
Strange I had to come to this hellish place,
Before I was able to see your face.
(Well I guess there isn’t much more to say,)
But I’m glad, God, that I met you today.
The zero hour will soon be here,
But I’m not afraid to know you are near.

The signal has come, I shall soon have to go,
I like you lots – this I want you to know.
I’m sure this will be a horrible fight,
Who knows, I may come to your house tonight.
Though I wasn’t friendly to you before-
I wonder, God, if you’d wait at your door?
Look, I’m shedding tears, me shedding tears!
Oh I wish I had known you these long, long years.
Well I have to go now, Dear God, Goodbye,
But now that I’ve met you, I’m not scared to die.

An image from the exhibit showing the repatriation ceremony for Pte Bellingham

An image from the exhibit showing the repatriation ceremony for Pte Bellingham

 

Advertisements
Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.