THEY are often the forgotten victims of a bitter conflict.

But now a Denby Dale mother has launched a medal for children whose parents are serving their country.

Dawn McLeish created a special medal after seeing her own sons, William, six, and Cameron, two, cope with their father, WO1 Phil McLeish, serving in Afghanistan.

The medal was awarded to children in Germany this week when their parents returned from service in Afghanistan.

Mrs McLeish, from Denby Dale, said: "I looked at my own children and saw what a hard time they were having without their dad.

"They missed him so much and weren’t really able to understand why he wasn’t there.

"They have to be strong and brave to be able to cope with something like that at such a young age.

"I found myself saying ‘they deserve a medal’ and then I thought why not given them one."

Mrs McLeish’s husband, WO1 Phil McLeishfrom Gretna, said he hoped others would pick up on the idea.

He added: "Being away from your family is hard but we were able to focus on the job at hand which makes it easier.

"It’s much harder for the partners and children we leave behind.

"These medals are a great idea.

"We will certainly look to repeat this and hopefully extend it within the brigade. I can see others elsewhere picking up on the idea."

The miniature medal is designed to recognise the sacrifices families make when their loved ones are on the frontline.

Forty-four children of men from 200 Signal Squadron were presented with their medals at a parade, believed to be the first of its kind, at Normandy Barracks, Germany, on Wednesday.

They included the McLeishs’ sons William and Cameron.

The medals are engraved with the logo of 20th Armoured Brigade and the slogan "Daddy’s hero".

Lily Masson, one, and her brother Tyler, three, were also presented with medals.

Their father, L/Cpl Michael Masson, originally from Glasgow, said: "Tyler is just about old enough to understand where I was and what I was doing but Lily had no idea where her dad was.

"I missed a lot of the key moments of her growing up. I didn’t get to see her first steps and I feel terrible for not being there.

"Now I’m home I’m looking forward to being a proper dad again and showing my family how much their support means to me."

Earlier the forces personnel had received their own operational service medals from the Princess Royal after returning from six-month tours.