New garden is completed for fallen war hero

Zoe Gaitley at the newly-completed memorial park in memory of soldier Craig Hopson.
Zoe Gaitley at the newly-completed memorial park in memory of soldier Craig Hopson.

A “beautiful” garden in memory of a Castleford solider killed in Afghanistan has been completed.

Craig Hopson, 24, died while on a tour of duty in 2009, and the decision was taken to create a special memorial garden in the town.

Bombardier Craig Hopson.

Bombardier Craig Hopson.

The work was orchestrated by Smawthorne Welfare Action Team and led by Zoe Gaitley, who runs Hair N Beauty on Smawthorne Lane.

The group was formed seven years ago by Mrs Gaitley to help make improvements to Smawthorne Park and the memorial garden is the latest in growing list of good deeds.

She said: “For over a year, the Smawthorne Welfare Action Team has worked in credibly hard to raise the funding to renovate the entrance to Smawthorne Welfare. This project cost just over £5,000.

“Residents told us they wanted new railings and bins and that a paved area with planters would set the right tone.

“We have got to thank Gary Sherrington and Chris Sadler from Street Scene (at Wakefield Council) so much for their advice on funding and design.

“All the park users agree not only that it is beautiful and a fitting tribute to Craig Hopson, but also makes the park more welcoming.”

Bombardier Craig Hopson was a former Castleford High Technology College pupil who -joined the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, the Lowland Gunners, in 2002.

He was killed in 2009 when his vehicle was struck by an explosive device in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

He was taking part in Operation Panther’s Claw - a massive operation to drive the Taliban out of a former stronghold.

His death came just months after his daughter had been born, and friends and family said he was “gutted” at having to return to the frontline.

In 2016, Wakefield Council named a street after him on the new estate off the A6539 - Craig Hopson Avenue.