Sunday, 19 May 2019

WI’s poppy tribute to teenage soldier killed in Falklands War

WI’s poppy tribute to teenage soldier killed in Falklands War

A WREATH of knitted poppies was unveiled to commemorate a paratrooper from Sonning Common who was killed in the Falklands War.

Members of the village branch of the Women’s Institute created the tribute to Private Francis Frederick Slough, who was in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment.

He was killed in the final assault on Port Stanley on June 14, 1982, less than three hours before Argentina surrendered. He was 19.

The wreath was unveiled by WI branch secretary Sue Hedges, who said some members could remember Pte Slough, who was known as Fred, when he was growing up.   

She said: “We thought it would be nice to have a wreath of poppies as some people remember him.  

“One member, Pam Pratt, remembers when he used to go to the youth club and would talk to her about joining the army.”

The women made more than 100 wool and felt poppies for the wreath over a period of about four weeks.

It was unveiled at a coffee morning at the village hall in Wood Lane on Wednesday last week. Among the guests was Steve Goddard, who was Pte Slough’s best friend at Sonning Common Primary School and then Chiltern Edge Secondary School.

Mr Goddard travelled from his home in Ramsgate to be there.

Also present was villager Alex Manning, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and served on HMS Intrepid during the Falklands War.

Mrs Hedges told the guests: “At this time of year we remember and pay our respects to all the men and women of the British forces who have lost their lives.

“Today, we are particularly remembering Fred Slough. This wreath is in memory of Fred and we are thinking of him and the family and friends he left behind.” 

Mr Manning, who was an instructor officer for more than 20 years, said that when he and his wife Gill moved to the village about five years ago they quickly became aware of the memorial to Pte Slough.

He said: “It has particular relevance to me as I served in the Falklands as well.

“When I was asked why I wear a poppy I said it was to respect and remember the sacrifice made by the Fred Sloughs of this world and the hundreds and thousands of others who have given us the lives that we live.

“It is right and proper that we honour Fred with the utmost respect.”

After the unveiling, Mr Goddard said: “It is marvellous to see the village where Fred was born and grew up is recognising and remembering him in this way.

“He would have thought it hilarious that people have made such a fuss.

“We used to sit on the benches outside and now, years later, he has a memorial on the wall.”

Mr Goddard, whose parents now live in Caversham Park Village, said he tried to return to Sonning Common once a year to see the plaque and he is still in touch with the Slough family, who now live in North Wales.

Pte Slough, who grew up in Baskerville Road, was the son of Valery and Dennis but they divorced and his father married  Margaret who became his step-mother. He has eight siblings, four who live in the UK and four in Ireland.

When he was at Chiltern Edge he belonged to the boxing club and would train three nights a week.

After leaving school at 16, he joined the army, firstly as a member of the Royal Armoured Corps Junior Leader Regiment.

He continued boxing and became regiment champion.

In the Falklands War,he was involved in the battle for Goose Green in which his commanding officer was killed.

Later, he marched by night at the head of the British troops advancing on Port Stanley for 12 hours with a 100lb pack on his back, sleeping during the day in trenches. He was killed in the subsequent battle.

Following Pte Slough’s death, Sonning Common Parish Council asked residents to contribute to a memorial fund and pledged to erect the plaque in his memory.

People were also asked to make a donation in his name to the Airborne Forces Security Fund, a benevolent fund for the Parachute Regiment. A memorial service held at St Michael’s Church was attended by 450 people, including Pte Slough’s company commander Major Philip Neame who said he had shown “the utmost stoicism”.

He described Pte Slough as a “great asset” to his company and said that on countless occasions he had been “exposed to great risks but always produced the goods”.

In November that year a remembrance service was held at the village hall where the plaque was unveiled by then parish council chairman Godfrey Coles.

Under the simple brass plate is a piece of granite flown back from the Falklands by the RAF at the request of Pte Slough’s parents.

He was known for keeping up regiment morale and shortly before his death he had stolen the Argentinian flag flying over Goose Green.

The Falklands War was fought between Argentina and Britain over the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic.

It lasted 74 days and resulted in the deaths of 257 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen and three Falklands islanders. 

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