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War veterans blast repatriation paper
7:00pm Friday 27th September 2013 in News
VETERANS in Royal Wootton Bassett have criticised a move by the MoD to attempt to play down repatriation ceremonies to soothe public sensitivities.
In an eight-page document the MoD’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) think-tank suggested the public profile of repatriation ceremonies should be reduced in order to handle negative public opinion about casualty numbers.
From 2007 to 2011, more than 300 bodies of servicemen who had been killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were repatriated through the small market town, which was made ‘Royal’ after the local community stepped out in thousands to pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives for their country.
Bryan Kingscote, president of the Royal Wootton Bassett branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “I don’t know where they are coming from.
“The profile hasn’t been raised by anybody. In Bassett it was the people who stepped out to pay their respects. My feeling is that we don’t try to raise the profile.
“I can’t see where they’re coming from unless they are doing it for political reasons.
“It sounds like they are trying to hide the fact that there are bodies coming back from the war without anybody knowing about it, but that’s not democratic.”
The idea to ‘reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies’ as a way to try to handle ‘casualty averse’ public opinion was detailed in a November 2012 document obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act yesterday.
In the four years up to 2011, crowds of mourners lined the streets to pay their respects when the bodies of 345 servicemen who had been killed in action were brought back to RAF Lyneham and driven through Bassett.
An MoD spokesman said: “It is entirely right that we publicly honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and there are no plans to change the way in which repatriation ceremonies are conducted.
“A key purpose of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre is to produce research which tests and challenges established doctrine and its papers are designed to stimulate internal debate, not outline government policy or positions. To represent this paper as policy or a potential shift of policy is misleading.”
Since 2011, bodies have been repatriated through RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, with hearses driven through nearby Carterton.
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