Express & Star

Veterans mark 25 years since the end of Kosovo war with remembrance service

Testimonies were read and wreaths were laid at the Royal British Legion service at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Kosovo memorial

The 25th anniversary of the end of the war in Kosovo was marked with a service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum on Sunday.

Veterans read testimonies about their time in Kosovo and wreaths were laid during the Royal British Legion service in Staffordshire.

The service marked the deployment of the Nato-led international peacekeeping force, KFOR (NATO Mission in Kosovo).

Kosovo memorial
Veterans read testimony about their service and wreaths were laid during the memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire (Mark Allan/RBL/PA)

The war lasted from February 28 1998 until June 11 1999 amidst the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, after which around 4,000 British troops were initially deployed to promote peace in Kosovo.

Former Royal Marine Harris Tatakis, who served with 3 Commando Brigade as part of General Fry’s Tactical Rover Group, spoke about his service as part of a protection team liaising between factions to ease tensions.

“In Kosovo, the British didn’t point weapons; we didn’t wear helmets, we wore berets; we always took our sunglasses off when we spoke with someone,” he said.

“We weren’t aggressive, we didn’t find ourselves needing to be rescued from hostile situations.

“My experience was that our soft approach and the General’s endless patience speaking at ground level, made citizens on both sides feel safe in a volatile situation where the police force was still being trained up; the government was new; and there was no military to speak of.

“My proudest moments from the deployment were when we raided an illegal brothel and rescued many teenage girls, some as young as 12, who had been kidnapped and human trafficked in.

“And after a huge surveillance operation, we arrested a Serbian special forces team who were about to undertake a terror bombing campaign, that would have destabilised the whole region.”

He added: “British forces won hearts and minds in Kosovo; the experience of working with civilians made me a better Marine; and I feel we had saved a lot of lives and left Kosovo in a better place.”

Kosovo memorial
Former marine Harris Tatakis, of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines spoke about his service in Kosovo (Mark Allan/RBL?PA)

After the service, an exhibition was opened, featuring photos by Scotland-based photojournalist Nick Sidle who was embedded with KFOR.

Dr Tara Knights, head of remembrance at the Royal British Legion, said the service remembered the “extraordinary contribution” of the thousands of Armed Forces personnel who were deployed to Kosovo.

“We also remember the service and sacrifice of those who gave their lives or suffered injuries and thank those who continue to support peace and stability in Kosovo to this day.”

Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said: “Since more than 10,000 British troops first entered Kosovo 25 years ago as the largest contingent within Nato’s peacekeeping force, the UK has closely supported Kosovo’s sovereignty – including as one of the first countries to recognise Kosovan independence.

“We especially remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives or suffered injuries and thank all the members of our Armed Forces who served as part of UK and Nato operations in Kosovo, as well as our troops who continue to support Kosovo’s sovereignty through Nato’s KFOR mission. Thank you.”

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