A TRIBUTE TO THE PEOPLE OF WOOTTON BASSETT
As an old soldier it was my sincere appreciation of the solemn respect shown each week by the townsfolk of Wootton Bassett for our repatriated Afghanistan troops killed in action that prompted me to ponder on what I could do for them.
Since the town had no civic centre flagpole a donation to deliver, install and erect a 25ft ground mounted pole, a Union Flag and a Civic Coat of Arms flag seemed an appropriate gesture. The Town Council kindly accepted the offer announcing it would be dedicated in conjunction with a repatriation service by a visiting VIP.
Friday 29th January, 2010 I travelled to Wootton Bassett in company with my son a 31 year army career man now on the Long Service List. At the stroke of 14.00hrs on a bitterly cold day the pavements were thronged with local and distant visiting mourners.
The gentle hub-bub of chatter instantly becomes a sea of unearthly silence as the hearse vehicles arrive. The cortege stopped for a few moments at the roadside memorial while strewn with flowers. Only then was the silence broken by sobbing relatives and friends.
With other nearby ageing ex-Servicemen I too choked back the tears. The sorrowful occasion momentarily eased for the two families by the admirable unexpected approach of HRH Prince Charles Prince of Wales and Camilla Duchess of Cornwell graciously offering their own personal condolences.
Later at the official reception when thanked personally by the Royals I realised my modest gesture was nothing compared with two men who had made the ultimate 'donation' - each their sacrifice of life for globalpeace.