Relatives of fallen visit memorial to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan

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A group of bereaved relatives have paid an emotional first visit to a war memorial, after many loved ones were controversially not invited to or told about its unveiling.

The Iraq and Afghanistan memorial was opened by the Queen at a service in March, an event attended by 2,500 people including former prime ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron, and senior royals.

Organisers faced criticism from some of the bereaved, who said they had not received an invitation or been made aware the ceremony was taking place.

Widow Wendy Rayner and bereaved mothers Julie Hall and Tracy Dunn-Bridgeman visited the memorial in London on Sunday, saying it was important to them to see the memorial in person.

Ms Hall lost her son Kingsman Darren Deady after he was shot in Afghanistan in 2010 aged 23.

Tearfully the 52-year-old from Westhoughton in Bolton said: "It is bittersweet, bitter because it brings it all back but sweet because I remember him."

Ms Rayner's husband, Sergeant Peter Rayner, was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) during a routine patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.

At the time of the unveiling the florist, from Bradford, said some relatives felt they had been "forgotten".

Ms Dunn-Bridgeman, from Liverpool, said she had booked time off from her job as a medical secretary at Aintree Hospital on the understanding she had been invited to the unveiling.

Her son, Kingsman Jason Dunn-Bridgeman, died aged 20 in Afghanistan in 2009.

She said she understood not everyone could be invited to the memorial, but added that the handling of the invites made her feel "disrespected".

She said: "I felt disrespected because it's as if we don't count; the people who are left behind don't count."

The memorial represents more than 300,000 people, both military and civilian, who served in conflicts in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan from 1990-2015, and those who supported them from the UK.

The three women travelled to London this weekend with some of their children to attend the Party At The Palace on Saturday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry hosted the children of servicemen and women killed while serving in the Armed Forces.