I recently received the following article from my English Democrats colleague Ben Weald, who attended the last of the repatriation services in Royal Wootton Bassett.
Wootton Bassett – A Fond Farewell
On Wednesday afternoon after I finished work (31/08/2011), I decided I was going to pay a visit to Wootton Bassett, as the community was holding a special service because repatriations were no longer going to come through the town.
I had never been to the town to see a repatriation as I had always been at work or had other things going on when they happened, and I wanted to pay my respects to the wonderful people who time and again had taken to the streets to pay their respects to the soldiers who had been killed, and their families – They had honoured them each and every time without being asked.
Two and a half hours after leaving Enfield, my sat nav told me I had arrived at my destination. I slowly drove through to see a small crowd of people and the flag pole with the flag which was to be lowered later and the press pack.
Walking through the town passing many shops with Union flags in the windows and people milling around, there was a certain anticipation of what was to happen (This was at 5.30pm)
The flag stood proudly at the top of the pole in front of Wootton Bassett Post Office – To the left was Bassett Books and to the right an estate agents.
As the time moved closer, more and more people turned up – Many bikers were around and wearing their biker gear with poppies and ‘lest we forget’ messages on. The black and white building that has been televised so often was used to park bikes under and is actually a museum, although of what it does not say.
The British Legion were there in full force mingling with people along with the Police, the RAF and Town Cryers in full dress.
Just after 7pm the Mayor started to ask people to keep the road clear(There were now around 3000 plus people in attendance). Cream coloured order of events were handed around so people could follow the service – Everyone was expecting something special and they were not disappointed.
The service was due to start at 7.57pm – The time of sunset – and as it drew closer, the roads were closed and people moved forward. By this time around five thousand people were now in the area.
People were talking, dogs were barking and then suddenly….You heard a bell, and silence fell very quickly.The second bell tolled a few seconds later, and people just listened – I heard a person sob and couples put their arms around each other for comfort, the bell continued to toll and then the Mayor spoke, thanked people for coming and praised the soldiers who had passed through.
The Legion stood around, flags raised high (I counted at least sixty flags) and a hymn was sung. To the sound of what I was pretty sure was a lone bugle, the flag was lowered against the night sky now red in the distance as the sun faded – An awesome sight that a photo could not do justice to and nothing I could ever equal in words.
Once the flag was down, the vicar took it away with his escort where he was to lay it on the altar at the chapel overnight.
The Mayor then thanked people for coming and it was followed by a spontaneous round of applause. Some people turned to walk away (I was one), but as I did a lone voice shouted out for three cheers for the people of Wootton Bassett – We all cheered.
The Wootton Bassett fairytale was now over (If you could call it that), the soldiers who come home now will fly in via Brize Norton and a less public route, the government’s way of trying to make the war and what happens less public.
If you ever get the chance to go to Wootton Bassett then go along – The town is small but very lovely and probably as humble now as it was before it became world famous.
Thank you,Wootton Bassett