Sunday, November 11, 2007

British Legion bars wounded soldiers from Remembrance Day parade

Government policy does not permit serving soldiers to march

From The Guardian:

Serving soldiers horrifically injured in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts have been refused permission to join today’s main Remembrance Day parade, prompting angry accusations that the government is ‘ashamed’ to have them seen in public.

Jamie Cooper, 19, the youngest Briton seriously injured in Basra, had hoped to join the march past at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. He is one of a number of young soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan the Royal British Legion had wanted to include in Britain’s centrepiece remembrance ceremony.

But last week, the head of the Legion contacted Jamie’s father, Phillip, to say that government rules for participating in the parade stipulated that only veterans, not ‘serving soldiers’, could take part. Last year 1,500 civilians were among the 9,500 allowed by the government to participate in the official march past. ‘I am absolutely outraged,’ Cooper said. ‘I would not have made an issue of it. But Jamie, who is thankfully recovering well from his latest major operation, said to me: “Dad, do you remember how we always used to go to Remembrance Day when I was younger? Do you think we could go this year?” He feels strongly about it, because he has lost friends on the battlefield and wants to pay tribute to them.’

It is also understood that several soldiers currently recuperating from serious injuries at Headley Court, the military rehabilitation centre near Epsom in Surrey, had wanted to attend, but were also not able to join the official parade.

Cooper said that when he raised the possibility with the Legion, the veterans’ organisation was very supportive and initially suggested that he join the main ceremony at the Cenotaph.

But Peter Cleminson, chairman of the Legion, later phoned ‘apologetically’. Cooper added: ‘He said that he wished he could have arranged for Jamie to take part, as well as some of the others who are recuperating at Headley Court. But he said that the government is in charge of the parade guidelines, and the policy is that no serving soldiers can participate.

The Royal British Legion is running an Honour the Covenant campaign to improve support for British soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It said that Jamie Cooper had been offered, as an alternative, a vantage point to watch the march past on a specially raised viewing platform.

‘Participation in the march past is subject to ticketing in order to maintain the dignity of the event and keep numbers within the bounds of safety,’ a spokesman said.


Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, that's disgusting.

On another note, I think the post should read "British GOVERNMENT bars wounded soldiers..."

It seems clear that the Legion would love for these soldiers to participate but that they are barred from doing so by some (inane) government regulation covering serving soldiers.

Joan Tintor said...

Good point, your lordship.