Service was ‘hijacked’

First published in Letters

Sir.–I marched with other veterans and attended the War Memorial event in Basingstoke last Sunday as a mark of respect to the fallen from past and present conflicts, and particularly as a tribute to my own absent friends.

Remembrance Sunday is not about religion or politics. It is all about what it is called – Remembrance.

So why did Councillor Martin Biermann, our mayor, decide to hijack this solemn day to air his own personal political anti-war rantings?

I have served Her Majesty for 22 years in many places, including Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq, and fully understand that war is a horrible and messy business.

This is a statement in itself that reinforces the reason for my attendance each Remembrance Day and why we as a nation should never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I felt our mayor decided to lecture us all on the illegality of the Iraq War and of the evilness of using ‘agent orange’ and other chemical weapons on soldiers and innocent civillians alike.

If it was not such a solemn occasion, some of the veterans who were present and myself would have soundly booed him off the dais.

Last Sunday was not the time to do this.

Last Sunday was all about what Panchabir Rai and Naj Qadri spoke about at the Memorial – Remembrance.

The mayor/councillor should remember one thing before he goes off on his rants. He is a politician and it is politicians who send troops to do their dirty business.

Shame on you our mayor for using this sacred occasion to press your own thoughts and beliefs on men and women that you are not worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with. –Mark (Nog) Gorman, Sandbanks Drive, Basingstoke.

Sir.– It is my opinion that the Mayor used the Remembrance ceremony to pursue a personal political agenda, and in doing so he disgraced his position and brought Basingstoke into disrepute. He even quoted from a conflict that the UK armed forces were not involved in.

As a member of the local branch of the Royal British Legion, I personally found his comments a disgrace and insulting as we were there to remember our fallen comrades and to support their families.

The mayor, in my opinion, made a serious error of judgment and needs at least to make a public apology or consider resigning his position. –RF Connolly, Pinkerton Road, Basingstoke.

Sir.–As a Falklands’ Veteran, I attend the service at the War Memorial as often as I am able to. I go, as do many others, to remember my shipmates, and of course family, who gave their lives in the service of our country.

I do not go to listen to a service on Multi-culturalism or to hear the life story of the lady mayoress. Therefore, I demand an apology from our mayor for what I felt was his very upsetting ‘speech’. As veterans, we carry not only physical scars but mental ones as well. Apart from that, the Royal British Legion, as always, did us proud. Thank you Bill Sample.–Mark Waller B.A., SS Canberra 1982, King’s Road, Basingstoke.

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