A MUCH-loved soldier who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan has been given ‘Hucknall Hero’ status at a poignant ceremony to name a bus after him.
Lance-Corporal Paul ‘Sandy’ Sandford, who grew up in Hucknall, died in a bloody gun-fight in the war-torn Helmand Province in 2007.
He was aged just 23 at the time and left a young wife, Gaynor.
The whole of Hucknall was thrown into mourning by his death, and he was later honoured by a memorial plaque in his name on the town’s cenotaph at Titchfield Park.
Now Trent Barton, which runs several bus-services in Hucknall, has named one of its fleet after the former Holgate Comprehensive School pupil as part of an initiative dubbed ‘Hucknall’s Heroes’.
The scheme involves the Connect service that links the main tram stop in the town centre with outlying estates.
The naming initiative was launched when the company reinstated one of the routes after a lengthy protest-campaign by disgruntled passengers.
Each of the three buses that run on the service will now be named after ‘a local legend’, starting with L-Cpl Sandford.
Friends and family attended a naming ceremony on Hucknall Market Place for the bus, which will feature a plaque in honour of the soldier behind the driver’s seat.
L-Cpl Sandford’s mum, Jane Saxby, said: “All ‘Sandy’ ever wanted to do was join the Army, and we are very, very proud of him.
“ I would really like to thank Trent Barton for naming the bus after him, and everyone who put his name forward.
“As well as recognising my son, I hope the naming of the bus will remind people of the sacrifices made by soldiers still in Afghanistan and the many brave servicemen and women who have been killed or injured while serving their country,”
Alex Hornby, commercial director at Trent Barton, said Hucknall residents were asked to nominate names for the Hucknall buses — and many put forward L-Cpl Sandford.
There was also a campaign run on Facebook to get the bus named in honour of the brave soldier, who served with the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters, now known as the Mercian Regiment.
“We all agreed that he was a true hero, in every sense,” said Mr Hornby.
“We are delighted to be able to name the first bus after him.”