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Anger and disbelief over call to downgrade repatriations
The repatriation of Private Robert Hetherington, of The Royal Regiment Of Scotland, at RAF Brize Norton in May
OXFORDSHIRE’S repatriation officials have vowed to never stop holding ceremonies to mark Britain’s war dead after a MOD document suggested their profile should be lowered.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed MOD officials considered looking at ways to “reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies”.
The MOD’s development, concepts and doctrine centre – a military think tank based at Shrivenham – made the suggestion in a report in November 2012 as a way of handling “casualty adverse” public opinion.
The document says such ceremonies make the public more uneasy about the idea of sending British troops to war.
Mourners gather in Carterton to pay respect, while residents also gather in Headley Way, Oxford, on the final turn before the cortege arrives at the John Radcliffe Hospital for a post-mortem examination.
The MOD yesterday distanced itself from the report, although it was unclear when the think tank’s idea was rejected. However, the document has sparked outrage.
Royal British Legion Oxfordshire vice-president Mike Henderson lowers the Union Flag at the Carterton memorial garden on repatriation days.
He said: “I think it is a disgusting thing to think about.
“These people seem to have forgotten there are parents, families and friends.”
Asked if the ceremonies could be reduced in profile, Mr Henderson said: “No.”
Lee Mackie lost her son Jason, 21, to a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2009 and came up with the idea of the memorial bell that now tolls as the cortege approaches the memorial garden.
Members of the public helped to raise £26,000 to build the bell, which was installed in June last year.
Mrs Mackie said: “The public has every right to have the repatriations carry on just the way they are. I know people want the repatriations to carry on in the same way.”
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “As far as we are concerned, there is no change to arrangements we have had in place since September 2011.”
An MOD spokesman said: “It is entirely right we publically honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and there are no plans to change the way repatriation ceremonies are conducted.”
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