Veterans hold dignified protest at scaled-back Remembrance Sunday service
- Credit: Sophie Wyllie
War veterans have accused Norwich City Council leaders as being "disrespectful" after an "insulting" decision to pre-record a private Remembrance Sunday ceremony.
Today's scaled-back service by Norwich War Memorial, opposite City Hall on St Peters Street, which normally attracts a large crowd, was only attended by council dignitaries and invited guests and filmed at 8am to be broadcast on its YouTube channel at around 10.30am.
Alan Waters, leader of the council, said: "As the planning for our Remembrance event begins in the spring, we had to take into account the Covid caseload locally at that time, as well as the potential impact the colder months could have. We have been in touch with veterans groups since then regarding our difficult decision to have a scaled-back approach to avoid risk to all concerned."
But a group of five ex-servicemen from the city defiantly stood outside the red rope by the memorial and dignitaries at 8am, watched by a small number of family members.
Gavin Scott, 58, who served in the Royal Navy for more than nine years and Falklands War in 1982, said: "The decision to exclude veterans from this ceremony by holding the service in the morning has outraged veterans and the people of Norwich."
He said it was particularly disappointing given the size of other events being held in the city, including the beer festival in October, which was held at St Andrew's and Blackfriars Halls in Norwich, spaces which are run by the city council, and the science festival at the Forum.
"It is disrespectful to all veterans, anyone in the armed services and their families," he said.
"This is the national day when we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We live in a free democracy and that is because of people long since passed.
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"As the years go on and the number of people who served in the First World War and Second World War dwindle we must remember them.
"The ceremony in the morning was insulting."
Mr Scott and the four other veterans understood why the council wanted to think about Covid but added the ceremony was safe because it was outside.
He added there was such strength of feeling about the decision, he expected many former servicemen and people would gather outside the war memorial around 10.30am.
David Oxbury, 62, former Royal Navy writer, who stood alongside Mr Scott, said the decision was hard to take as veterans in the city would see coverage of hundreds of people outside the Cenotaph in London and other Remembrance events around the country.