The family of a British soldier killed by an elephant in Liwonde National Park five months ago has written a touching tribute for the memorial sight where Prince Harry laid a wreath on Monday.
The Duke of Sussex spent day two of the royal visit of Malawi in the thick of the tropical woodlands in Machinga District where he visited the memorial site for guardsman Matthew Talbot, 22.
Braving scorching sunshine typical of lowlands along the Shire River, the Prince Harry placed the flowers close to a plaque bearing the deceased’s tribute.
The writing on the cairn along a battered dusty road reads: “We think of you every day, sometimes with a tear but always with a smile. We are all so very proud of your achievements, you will be remembered for the honourable work you were doing in Malawi.
“You were fulfilling your childhood dreams helping to protect God’s creatures whilst also serving your country. God bless you our angel. Sleep well until we meet again—Family Forever”
Now the fallen soldier’s parents, who received Elizabeth Cross from Queen Elizabeth in honour of the departed hero, have revealed how the royal visit moved them to dispatch a special plaque in memory of their son.
In their letter released on Monday, Steve and Michelle Talbot have expressed their pent-up emotions.
They write: “Mathew will always be a dearly loved and much missed son, brother and boyfriend. As a family, we were deeply moved when Prince William wrote to us after Mathew’s death expressing his deepest sympathy. We were equally touched by Prince Harry’s wish to pay tribute to Mathew during his and the Duchess of Sussex’s tour of Africa.
“As soon as we heard about Prince Harry’s planned tribute, we had a special plaque made to commemorate Mathew’s life. We are extremely honoured and pleased that His Royal Highness has taken this plaque to Africa and will be paying this tribute to Mathew in Malawi today.
“Mathew was passionate about helping endangered animals and would be so happy to know that Prince Harry is in Africa helping to raise awareness of efforts to do this.”
The late Talbot was a member of the Coldstream Guards in Number 10 in London, where he mostly performed ceremonial public duties before he was deployed to the anti-poaching mission in Liwonde National Park.
He was on his first operational tour when he fell victim to elephants that roam the woodlands, grasslands and swamps on the banks of the Shire River.
Paying tribute to Malawian game rangers and British soldiers sharing jungle tactics in the national park, Prince Harry said “Anyone who puts themselves while serving their nation need to be hugely appreciated.”
Bintony Kutsaira, Malawi’s Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, thanked British military for the sacrifice they are making to protect wildlife.
He said the training Talbot was part of personifies Britain’s undying commitment towards conservation efforts in southern Africa.
“We believe the guardsman who paid the ultimate price did not die in vain,” he said, extended condolences to the deceased’s family.