TRIBUTES have been paid to a veteran who helped initiate a project to create a permanent memorial to the sacrifices of one of the country’s most famous regiments.

Former Durham Light Infantry (DLI) soldier Keith Straughier, who hails from Willington, County Durham, played a key role in the eventual unveiling of a larger-than-life bronze statue of a DLI bugler at National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, in July 2012.

The project was launched after Mr Straughier, 69, visited the arboretum with his ex-DLI bugler friend Richard Softley in 2010 and searched for a memorial to their beloved regiment - but found none.

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Together, with the support of their wives, they started a campaign to raise funds for a suitable memorial and this was subsequently taken up by the regimental trustees.

Funds were raised, with the support of Northern Echo readers, Darlington Building Society and residents of County Durham - and beyond.

Fundraising co-ordinator Colonel Arthur Charlton said: “Keith Straughier would have been proud.

“He typifies the way ex-Durham men revere the regiment. When he found there wasn’t a statue there for regiment, he set off effectively off his own bat to rectify the situation.

“And although he thought was it was beyond, him he must have got a tremendous amount of satisfaction when he finally saw the statue unveiled.

“And what a pity that he will not get to see the replica planned for Durham.”

Mr Straughier joined the DLI in 1962 and served in Hong Kong, Borneo and Northern Ireland. He served with regiment’s Signals Platoon, Support Company and a rifle company and, as an accomplished swimmer represented the regiment in many competitions.

When the Durhams were amalgamated with other county light infantry regiments in 1969 to form The Light Infantry, he initially with the short-lived 4th Battalion before moving on to the 2nd Battalion. He rose to the rank of sergeant and subsequently served as a member of The Royal Corps of Transport. Mr Staughier’s funeral service was held in Stowmarket, Suffolk, on Friday.

A project is now underway for a memorial in Durham City.