FAMILIES of fallen soldiers from across Essex were awarded the Elizabeth Cross in recognition of their loss.

During an emotional presentation service, at Ingatestone Hall, Ingatestone, 11 families were presented with the medals and memorial crosses.

The Elizabeth Cross was introduced by the Queen, in 2009, as a commemorative emblem for families of members of the British Armed Forces killed in action, or as a result of terrorist action, since the Second World War.

The crosses and scrolls were presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, John Petre, and Brigadier Andrew Williams, Commander of 49 East Brigade.

After the ceremony, Brig Williams said: “This is about families, all of whom have lost a loved one on active service on behalf of this country.

“Today is an opportunity for us, the nation, to demonstrate recognition of that loss.”

Widows, brothers, sisters, parents and children spoke of their emotion and pride as they paid tribute to their lost ones after the presentation.

The widow of a soldier shot dead by the IRA while serving in Northern Ireland paid tribute to a “loving and caring” man.

Private James Houston, from Brightlingsea, died at the age of 22, during an attack on his vehicle checkpoint.

He was serving with the 1st Batallion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, in December 1989, when his four-man patrol, at a permanent vehicle checkpoint near the border with the Republic, was attacked.

Pte Houston and another British soldier died during the attack. A third was badly wounded.

After receiving the Elizabeth Cross, his widow, Shirley Houston, 45, said: “It was a very proud and emotional moment.

“He was very proud to be a soldier and to be serving.

“He was also loving and caring and a great dad.”

Pte Houston’s son, Daniel, 22, said: “I was a month short of my second birthday when he died, but I’ve been told all about him.

“He was very family-orientated.”

Pte Houston was from Motherwell, Scotland, and joined the Army in 1985.