Mum whose son died in Afghanistan blasts Rishi Sunak’s national service plan – The Mirror

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The mum of the youngest soldier killed in Afghanistan has blasted Rishi Sunak’s plans to bring back compulsory national service.

Lucy Aldridge’s world shattered when her rifleman son William died in a Taliban bomb blast. It was just 44 days after his 18th birthday, making him the youngest recruit to fall in the conflict. Nearly 15 years on, the grieving mum hit out at the Tories plot to force teens into military-style training and called for the entry age to be raised to 21.

Lucy, 56, said: “As a mother who has been stripped of the opportunity to witness my son marry, settle down and have a family, I have grave concerns about where this is likely to lead. Young people are our future, but they are now being seen as potential cannon fodder.”

Lucy, of Bromyard, Herefords, spoke out after the PM announced plans to reintroduce national service for 18-year-olds if he wins the election. The plan would see teens forced to undergo an armed forces placement or non-military volunteering with organisations like the NHS, fire service and police.

A photo of Sunak on the campaign trail

Sunak has argued national service will be a good thing for young adults

But for Lucy the PM has an ulterior motive. She said: “We know the Army and other public services are struggling to recruit – so to my mind this is yet another way of using young people to fill the gaps and divides that have been created in society by this Conservative government.

“The veil isn’t even that thick to be able to see through it – it’s not conscription, but will likely lead to it, particularly for those who go down the military training route. In William’s case, it was a career choice, but crucially, he had the freedom to choose – and this would take away some of that freedom from our young people.”

William, who served in the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, was on an early morning patrol near Sangin, Helmand province, when he was killed by an explosion on 6 July 2009. He perished trying to save 18-year-old comrades James Backhouse and Joseph Murphy

It was 44 days after his 18th birthday, making him the youngest recruit to fall in the conflict. Lucy, who also has sons Archie, 19, and George, 21, will remember that fateful day for the rest of her life.

She said: “The devastation of losing a loved one at a young age is indescribable. And it has a ripple effect, not just for the immediate family – it caused devastation among his battalion, his regiment and all those whose lives he touched.”

The mum-of-three told how knowing her boy’s plans for the future made his passing doubly painful. She continued: “He had a long-term girlfriend and they were looking to build a home together and one day probably get married – but that was all taken away in a split second.

Recalling their final phone call, she added: “We spoke for the last time four days before William died. As always, he told me he loved me. But I could hear the tiredness in his voice and that worried me.

“William had a very mature head on his shoulders, but the truth is I don’t think he should have been sent until the age of 21 – he had a lot more life to live and experience.” Despite her daily heartache, Lucy tries to focus on the happy times spent with her boy.

She said: “He was charismatic, caring and always put others before himself, which is ultimately how he lost his life. My life changed forever that day and I don’t wish that agony on any other family.”

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