Clitheroe mother's heroic skydive for charity in honour of her adored son
Scotty's Little Soldiers is very close to her heart as it provides support for children who have lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces – including Diane’s granddaughter Millie Neilson.
Diane’s son Corporal Darren (Daz) Neilson was just 31 when he was killed in an explosion at a training exercise at Ranges in Wales on June 15th, 2017. At the time he served in the Army, Royal Tank Regiment, and his daughter Millie was only seven years old.
Diane has since formed a special bond with Fran Chandler, whose son Corporal Matthew Hatfield, was killed in the same explosion, after meeting at the inquest. Fran and Diane, along with their daughters, recently took part in a skydive together in honour of their sons.
Diane said: “We met Matt’s mum Fran and her daughter Biddy at the pre-inquest and we stayed at the same hotel throughout the whole inquest. We would go back to the hotel and have meals together and sit and talk about what had gone on that day. Obviously, we got talking about Daz and Matthew and it was surprising how similar they were. It’s strange how something so tragic brought two families together. We formed a really close bond, which has helped me a lot.”
“Our granddaughters Lexi and Millie miss their dads and they have received a lot of support from Scotty’s Little Soldiers. So, Fran and I thought it would be nice for the mums and the sisters to do something for the charity. We want everyone to know there is this amazing charity out there that does a lot to help children who have lost a parent."
Founded by war widow Nikki Scott in 2010, Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a national charity which supports children across the UK who have lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. The charity was set up in memory of Nikki’s husband and father to her two children, Corporal Lee Scott, following his death in Afghanistan in 2009. Lee served in the same regiment (Royal Tank Regiment) as Daz and Matthew.
“My daughters were both really nervous about the skydive, especially my youngest, Sarah - she’s frightened of flying, so for her it was a really big thing, added Diane. "My eldest daughter Lyndsey was panicking too. I wasn’t too bad strangely enough and, on the day, we had a lot of supporters who helped us get through the day. It was absolutely amazing,” said Diane. “It was two separate families coming together for the same reason – our boys – and also to do something for Lexi and Millie and the other children. Me, Sarah and Lyndsey have all got the same necklace with Daz’s ashes in, and Fran and Biddy have rings with Matthew ashes - so the boys were doing it with us,” Diane added.
“Daz would probably think I was mad for doing a skydive, but I know he’d also be extremely proud. It doesn’t matter how young or old your son or daughter is, they are always your children and they always want to make you feel proud, and you want to make them feel proud. That’s what we’re hoping we did for the boys.”
Diane and Fran have raised over £3,000 for Scotty’s Little Soldiers. To show your support you can donate via their Just Giving page: