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British soldiers honor attack victim

By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff, 4/15/2002

Seventeen British soldiers may be cursing their combat boots as they struggle to conquer Heartbreak Hill today. But the men of the Honourable Artillery Company will be grateful for one thing: They won't be dragging a 2,000-pound Royal Navy field gun behind them.

On Saturday, it took the soldiers 4 hours and 58 minutes to haul the gun 26.5 miles around their base on the outskirts of London. Their mission was to honor Simon Turner, a former comrade who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, and to raise money for his widow and infant son. They've collected about $43,000 in donations thus far.

Elizabeth Turner gave birth to her son, William, in November.

The soldiers, who flew into Boston last night, hoped to duplicate their feat in the Boston Marathon. Local authorities nixed the idea of the gun, but the soldiers will run anyway - wearing their combat fatigues and boots and carrying both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes as a show of solidarity with the United States.

''As long as there are people who feel as strongly as we do, it doesn't matter what happens - the terrorists will never win,'' said Sergeant Major Stephen Kiely. He added that since Sept. 11, ''there's been a lot more coming together between America and the UK, and this is just an indication of that relationship.''

Simon Turner, who was 39 when he died, was the publishing director of Risk Waters Magazine, a financial publication based in New York. In that capacity he split his time between London and New York, but Turner had visited Boston and developed a fondness for the city, according to his widow.

She arrived in Boston yesterday to watch the marathon.

''New York and Boston will just be very important cities going forward in my life now,'' said Turner, who said she fell in love with Boston during a summer she worked as a camp counselor in New Hampshire. ''I want to bring William back to them, to show them to him and tell him about the support I've had from the American people.''

Turner said she has received condolence letters from President Bush and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The Honourable Artillery Company, founded by King Henry VIII in 1537, is the oldest regiment in the British Army. The company is akin to a US National Guard unit, and the soldiers report for duty every three weeks. Despite their part-time status, members of the company say they are extremely tight-knit.

''It's really just about demonstrating our commitment together as a unit,'' Sergeant Richard Pattison said of the tribute to Turner. ''It could have been any one of us.''

The soldiers created a stir at City Hall Plaza last night when they showed up in their berets and combat fatigues for the annual prerace pasta party. Curious marathoners and their families approached the men at their tables, and several women asked them to pose for pictures. They clowned around with a Boston police officer who agreed to handcuff one of them as a gag, and then they joined together to bench-press an Elvis impersonator wearing stilts.

The soldiers were nonchalant about the task they face today. Though several admitted that they were inexperienced marathoners and still hurting from the British leg of their tribute, they swigged beer along with their baked ziti at City Hall and headed to the Union Oyster House to continue the party after dinner.

''They say you've got to carbo-load, right?'' said Bob Lucas of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, a Boston group of retired military men that is the Honourable Artillery Company's sister group in the Colonies. The Boston group helped arrange the trip. ''They know what they've got to do.''

Lucas said he was inspired by the soldiers' tribute.

''The Brits have probably been our staunchest allies for years and years.''

Elizabeth Turner said the soldiers' run will be ''a wonderful thing to talk to William about when he's older.''

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 4/15/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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