A new street in Walworth has been named after Iraq War hero Private Lee O’Callaghan, who was killed in combat in 2004.
Brave Lee was fatally shot in the chest on August 9 during clashes with Shia militiamen in the city of Basra.
The 20-year-old had been on duty for five months, with one week left before he was due to fly home on leave and be reunited with his family.
Last Friday, the O’Callaghan Way street sign was unveiled in the nearly-completed section of Elephant Park, and will link Heygate Street with Wansey Street. It is also located around the corner from where younger brother Danny, and proud mum Shirley O’Callaghan, both work at F A Albin & Sons funeral directors.
“He was a funny brother. I looked up to him and he was my inspiration,” said Danny, 29. “Now it’s going to be there forever. He’s really left his mark on the area.
“That spot is exactly where our first home was. A lot of our family lived on the Heygate. My dad [Eugene] came here from Ireland and we had aunties and cousins in the blocks.”
Shirley, 58, from Tatum Street, said: “People always come up with these ideas, but you never think they’re going to be put into practice. It went through so many stages, but now we can actually see it.”
“Lee will never be forgotten. All of his friends who were in the army with Lee come and meet us at the cemetery and come for dinner with us. The army is like a family. They always get in touch without fail.”
The last time one of Lee’s family heard his voice was when the young soldier called home a few days earlier to speak to dad Eugene, on his birthday. The whole family, including sisters Gemma and Kerry, had been looking forward to him coming home on leave the following week. Instead, they got a visit from two army officers saying Lee had given his life helping his comrades to safety, after two Land Rovers were destroyed by rockets.
Danny and Shirley gave thanks to fellow Millwall fans, Lee Evans and John Davies, who led the campaign with the News to cement Lee’s name in the area where he was born and bred.
Lee’s name was put forward with more than 130 suggestions to name new streets and blocks in the borough over the next fifteen years. The family said a full unveiling and celebration will take place when construction has finished at the other end of O’Callaghan Way.