British, Headed by the Queen, Mourn over the Deceased in 2009

The Queen has expressed her sadness at the heavy death toll suffered by British forces fighting in Afghanistan, during her Christmas message to the nation.

The stoicism showed by bereaved service families, who have seen more than 100 loved ones die during military operations this year, was praised by the monarch who offered them her sympathy.

The sovereign said Britain owed a profound "debt of gratitude" to all past and present troops who have served in Afghanistan.

The town of Wootton Bassett, which has come to symbolise the nation's respect for fallen servicemen, was featured in the broadcast.

Touching footage was shown of the July day when eight military coffins passed through the Wiltshire town which came to a standstill to honour the dead.

Echoing her famous 1992 Guildhall speech, when  the Queen labelled that year an "annus horribilis", the monarch described how some years are "best forgotten".

She highlighted how the past 12 months had brought problems for many, especially those affected by the recession.

The Queen said in her television address: "Each year that passes seems to have its own character. Some leave us with a feeling of satisfaction, others are best forgotten. 2009 was a difficult year for many, in particular those facing the continuing effects of the economic downturn, according to PA's report.

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