Peterborough – Bishop’s Road Gardens (War Memorial)

This war memorial is located in what was many centuries ago the gardens of the Abbot of Peterborough Cathedral, which led down to the River Nene. Some of that area is now a small well-presented park (and other parts of the former gardens now include a large car park and a road, which are rather less tranquil), which has this war memorial in a prominent location. The rocks which comprise the memorial are from the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, an element of peace which contrasts to the two soldiers who died in the Province during The Troubles.

The architect of the memorial was Columb Hanna and the Bishop of Peterborough was present at its dedication on 30 September 2001.

Corporal Michael Boddy was killed in Belfast on 17 August 1972, aged 24. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet whilst serving for the 2nd Battalion of Royal Anglian Regiment.

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed in Bessbrook on 12 February 1997, aged 23. He was also killed by a sniper’s bullet whilst checking documentation at a checkpoint and he had been serving in the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery. Stephen was also the last soldier to be killed by the Provisional IRA before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. This case proved a difficult one at the time, as Bernard McGinn was sentenced to 490 years in prison for this killing, and numerous others, but he was released a year later under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

More recently, a third name has been added to the memorial, Company Sergeant Colin Beckett, who died at the age of 36 in Helmand Province on 5 February 2011. The Ministry of Defence issued this statement at the time:

“Company Sergeant Major Beckett deployed to Afghanistan on 15 October 2010 as Company Sergeant Major of C Company, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA). He was based at Patrol Base Folad in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province. On the morning of 5 February 2011 he was deployed on an operation to interdict the movement of insurgents into Shaheed, a village on the Nahr-e Bughra canal where C Company have been developing a protected community. At 0834hrs Company Sergeant Major Beckett was fatally wounded by an improvised explosive device which detonated as he was moving into position to cover his fellow patrol members.

Company Sergeant Major Beckett, known as ‘Tom’ in the Army, was born on 20 February 1974 in his home town of Peterborough. He joined the Army in July 1990 and was posted to 3 PARA on completion of his training. A strong performance on the anti-tank cadre in 1993 saw him take the first steps down a specialisation in which he would become a master, leading anti-tank soldiers at nearly every rank. Company Sergeant Major Beckett’s outstanding command ability was recognised early and he moved up the ranks swiftly, excelling on anti-tank and rifle command courses as he went, all fitted around operational deployments to Northern Ireland and Kosovo.

It was as an Anti-Tank Section Commander that he deployed to Iraq during the first Operation TELIC in 2003 but he had been promoted by the time he deployed as a Platoon Sergeant with C Company on Operation HERRICK 4, 3 PARA’s first deployment to Helmand in 2006. He was soon back in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 8, again at the forefront commanding his soldiers, this time as a Fire Support Group Second-in-Command during 3 PARA’s tour as Regional Battle Group South. After promotion to Warrant Officer Class 2 in 2009, Company Sergeant Major Beckett took over as Company Sergeant Major of C Company in the vital lead-up to operations. It was in this most challenging role that he deployed to Afghanistan in October 2010 as part of the 3 PARA Battle Group, Combined Force Nad ‘Ali (North).”