Sharon Watson’s late husband John served for 23 years with the Parachute Regiment before transferring to the Australian Defence Force in 2007, where he served until he died in 2020.

Sharon recalls, “John’s passing was sudden – a tragic loss that left me and my daughter Amy devastated.”

A moving military funeral by his regiment, 2 Commando, provided some comfort in the way John’s extraordinary life and service were honoured, but due to COVID restrictions, his family and friends from the UK were unable to attend the service in Sydney.

Sharon adds, “Two years to the day after John’s passing, we held a memorial service in our home town of Middlesbrough – the place where John and I had met and married 35 years earlier.

“We knew we wanted to make this a truly special occasion, one that would mirror John’s funeral in Australia, and allow his UK family and friends to celebrate his life and reflect on his long and proud military service.”

Sharon wrote to the Dishforth Military Wives Choir and was put in touch with the musical director, Ruth Sladden.

“Ruth was incredible,” Sharon recalls. “She offered advice, suggested songs and hymns, and became our guiding hand. Ruth’s husband Dan even offered to sing Lacromysa: Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, and their organist Myles Hartley said he’d happily bring his own organ along.”

On the day, it was a blisteringly cold and the church boiler was broken. But that didn’t bother the choir.

Sharon adds, “The choir captivated us all with their breath-taking performance. You could have just as easily been in listening to a choir inside Westminster Abbey, such was the level of their professionalism. I know John would have been truly humbled but also extremely proud – we certainly were.

“Being part of a military family doesn’t end with the unexpected loss of the serving person. Support goes on and so many people are there to help. They want to give back and find a way to help make the loss just that little bit easier to bear.

“With the support of the Dishforth Military Wives Choir, John’s family and friends in the UK were finally able to say a proper goodbye. We are honoured to call them our friends and thank them all from the bottom of our hearts.”

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