Wiltshire Publications

‘Lest we forget’ Westbury Remembers

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THE Westbury community turned out in force to pay their respects to those who have died or been injured in the world wars and other conflicts, at the town’s annual Remembrance service on Sunday 10th November.

Rev. Melanie Otto and Rev. Ward Jones led the service at the War Memorial in the town centre which included Bible readings and hymns. The Last Post was played and the crowd fell silent, observing the two-minute silence.

Representatives from local groups and organisations, businesses, schools and past and present servicemen and women then laid wreaths at the memorial. A collection also took place for the Poppy Appeal.

The town council said, “In terms of support, this was a day Westbury can be proud of.  The service was another demonstration of the strong sense of community our town has, with a cohort of young people and community organisations dedicated to serving the town. 

“Nothing illustrates this better than the number in attendance this weekend, who fell silent to honour the fallen. 

“The council would like to thank every individual and group that volunteered their time this weekend.”

Council under fire over 

‘rushed’ service

THE timings and organisation of this year’s Remembrance service, organised by Westbury Town Council, has come under fire from residents claiming it was ‘rushed’.

Following the event, criticism mounted online with residents saying they thought the service was ‘rushed’, ‘disrespectful’ and a ‘fiasco’. People were upset at the timing of the two-minutes’ silence, falling at 10.45am instead of the scheduled 11am, the ‘poorly organised’ parade and the laying of the wreaths. 

In response to the criticism, Westbury Town Council has issued an apology to the town and says it hopes to ‘improve the Remembrance service next year.’

Formerly organised by the Westbury branch of the Royal British Legion, this was the third time the event had been organised by Westbury Town Council.

One wreath-bearer told White Horse News, “I thought that the service itself was ok, but there was no notice that the two minutes’ silence was going to be early, thus breaking with the tradition of holding it at 11 o’clock, as Westbury has always done. Because of this, some people actually missed it.

“The wreath-bearers were ushered into the rotunda and basically left to sort themselves out. Whereas in the past, there was a set order and they were called to the war memorial to lay their wreaths. 

“Apart from the town council and one or two others, nobody knew the organisation that was laying the wreath.

“There were some plus points though, the acoustics were far better than last year and the band was good.”

A member of the parade told White Horse News, “I have been involved with the Remembrance parade for many years in an organisation, as a child and now as an adult, and this has to go down as one of the most rushed, disrespectful gatherings, wandering around from the car park, that I have ever been to.

“It cannot be called a parade any more. It has steadily been going downhill since we stopped marching with a band from the Warminster Road car park. 

“It was something the people involved in were proud to be part of. It seemed a lot more people would come out and line the route the parade took, and there was real respect for what it represented.

“The veterans and military involved now must be seething at how the parade is run and the organising of it should be given back to the Royal British Legion.

“Nobody seemed to know what was happening as there were very few service sheets to give around”

Mary Kneen, former chairperson of the Royal British Legion Westbury branch for 10 years said, “Sadly it didn’t go well, we had the two minutes’ silence at 10.45am instead of 11am and many people came after the service started. I went to see Ryan at the town council on the Monday following the service to discuss it.

“On this day we had a little service of remembrance at the War Memorial as we always do something on the actual day, and it was well attended by around 60 people. Hopefully lessons were learnt and improvements will be made.”

Ryan Child, events manager said, “Westbury Town Council is, like the rest of the town, passionate and committed to Remembering those that have served the country. 

“This year the service was ahead of schedule and it is with regret that the silence was honoured earlier than advertised. For those that may have missed the service or were inconvenienced in any way, the town council offers its sincerest apology. 

“As a council, we want only what is best for the town and will work hard to improve the Remembrance Service next year. 2020 will be the fourth since being asked to take over the organising of the service by the Royal British Legion.  Sadly, the Royal British Legion could no longer deliver the service due to a lack of membership.”

Mayor cllr Mike Sutton added,  “I would like to apologise to anyone who felt that the above service held in Westbury on November 10th did not meet their expectations in respect of the two-minute silence. Whilst there is no requirement to hold the silence at 11am, and indeed most neighbouring towns hold theirs at many different times, there was certainly an expectation among many that it would take place at that time.

“Last year the local branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) notified the council that due to dwindling numbers, they would not be able to run the event and by default, the council took on that responsibility. A committee was set up comprising of all those taking part, including the services, plus representatives from the local community and this committee planned and ran the event with the council responsible for arranging the logistics; it would now seem that discussions as to time were not discussed between the two bodies.

“I have heard some comments regarding the format and choice of hymns, but would respectfully point out that the format of the service conformed almost entirely to the guidelines as laid down on the RBL website. Indeed the national service attended by the Queen included those sung at the Westbury service.

“It goes without saying of course that there will be many discussions to ensure that in future timings and format be much better communicated.”