A TIDWORTH mum has taken to the skies for charity in memory of her soldier son who was killed in an explosion during a training exercise.

Fran Chandler completed a skydive to raise funds for children’s charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

The charity is very close to her heart as it provides support for children who have lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces – and has supported her granddaughter Lexi Hatfield.

Fran’s son Corporal Matthew Hatfield was 27 when he was killed in an explosion at a training exercise at Ranges in Wales on June 15, 2017. He was serving in the Royal Tank Regiment.

Fran has since formed a special bond with Diane Walsh, whose son Corporal Darren (Daz) Neilson, was killed in the same explosion. Fran and Diane, along with their daughters, took part in the sky dive together in honour of their sons.

Fran said: “My daughter Samantha (known as Biddy) suggested a sky dive.

“Daz’s mother Diane was keen to do it and so were his sisters Sarah Louise Neilson and Lyndsey Christian, although Sarah was scared of flying.”

She added: “It’s been a rollercoaster and for the first year I (in my head) put Matt in Germany and I kept thinking he’d come back. It took about a year to realise he had actually gone. It was really hard to comprehend and then we had the inquest and we were being chased by paparazzi and things like that.

“It’s been like living an ongoing nightmare. I still wake up sometimes and expect him to be there. I know we will never get over it, and we wouldn’t want to, but we are learning to adjust to the new reality of life and having Diane and her family by our side has really helped. We have gone through the same thing at the same time, so to support one another has meant so much. We wanted to do something to raise money for Scotty’s Little Soldiers and it felt only right to do it all together.”

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.

Fran said: “Scotty’s Little Soldiers has done a lot for my granddaughter Lexi. She gets so excited when she receives birthday and Christmas presents from Scotty’s and the holidays they organise mean a lot to her. It’s nice to know there’s someone who really cares. Scotty’s also arranges events where Lexi can meet other children in the same boat – she has a connection with them because they all know where each other is coming from.”

The families did the sky dive with friends Britney Gonthier and Sean Sims in Netheravon.

“We all got up there and did it and Sarah managed to overcome her fears. Everyone did really well. It was amazing," said Fran. "The weather was absolutely perfect, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were doing it for our boys and for a great charity."

Fran and Diane have raised more than £3000 for the charity. To donate click here.