A memorial to a Coventry soldier killed in a Taliban ambush just days after his 20th birthday now takes pride of place alongside some of the city’s fellow heroes.

The plaque in honour of Private Jeff Doherty, known as JJ, now sits prominently at the front of the Airborne Forces Memorial in Coventry.

JJ was killed while fighting in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan in June 2008 – just days after turning 20.

In front of his proud family, including his brother who was just seven when he died and is now a himself in the Parachute Regiment, the plaque for Pte Doherty was dedicated at the weekend.

Lonnie Downes, a former 16 paratrooper and welfare officer for the Coventry Airborne Association, was instrumental in the special event.

Private Fin Doherty during the ceremony to dedicate the memorial to his brave brother JJ

“The family and his friends had planted a tree, behind our memorial, but it was so far back you couldn’t see it and it kept getting waterlogged,” he explained.

“Cec (the late Cec Jeffcote) said to me ‘Lonnie, we need to bring him out of the cold’.

“We tried to get the tree moved but it was very complicated, so with the permission of his family, we now have him (JJ), front and centre at the front of the memorial, on a plaque, so everyone can see.

“It is what he deserved.”

The socially-distanced dedication ceremony on Saturday brought together JJ’s proud family, including his brother Fin, who has followed in his brother’s footsteps to join the Parachute Regiment.

In fact, he played a part in the dedication of the special memorial, which also saw the Last Post played by a bugler and wreaths laid.

On the memorial itself it poignantly says: ‘To the world he was a Paratrooper, to us he was the World’.

Retired 2 Para Sgt Mick Murtagh also took part in the ceremony, as did Alderman Arthur Waugh and Sheila Collins JP.

The dedication was a special moment

They both spoke about the importance of having the Airborne Forces Memorial in the War Memorial Park, and their involvement in ensuring that the city recognised those who wore Pegasus Insignia.

The special tribute to Pte Doherty, who had a police dog named in his honour, stands in front of that memorial and by another tribute to a trio of hero soldiers.

It is close to the new stone memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the crossing of the Rhine on the current memorial to the Parachute Regiment and airborne forces in the War Memorial Park.

This honours heroic Rear Gunner Wally Simpson MM, who was awarded the military medal, alongside Flying Officer Sydney Barrow (RAFVR) and Flight Lieutenant Roy Blundell (RAFVR).

This memorial was dedicated during a special ceremony last September after Coventry Live helped to track down the family of Wally Simpson after 21 years.





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