Army dig in over plans to hold Forres Remembrance a week early

PLANS TO HOLD the annual Forres Remembrance parade a week before the official November 12 date are set to go ahead despite protests from within the Forres and wider Moray community.

Both Moray’s MP and MSP last night issued an appeal to the Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) Forres branch and 39 Engineer Regiment at Kinloss Barracks to note the feelings of local people on the issue.

Last week it was revealed that RBLS Forres and 39 Engineers had agreed a plan to hold the traditional Remembrance Sunday parade a week early – as they did last year because the Army unit said they would have issues providing the manpower to parade on Remembrance Sunday.

It was suggested that the decision for bringing the event forward this time was heavily influenced by the greater attendance in 2016, prompting protests from people in Forres and throughout Moray that this was not a valid reason for breaking with a tradition that has been firmly established since 1946.

A poll run by insideMORAY indicated that almost 95% of almost 700 taking part did not see any reason for the event to be moved forward – and the result of that was forwarded to Kinloss Barracks and the RBLS Forres.

While the RBLS Forres Secretary did not reply to two requests this week to comment on the issue, Ruth Douglas, who is barracks staff officer at Kinloss did respond, saying that a meeting had taken place with RBLS Forres to discuss the issue.

Mrs Douglas said: “39 Engineer Regiment holds Remembrance in the highest regard. This is deeply personal to us – we have lost many colleagues in recent years and wish to remember them appropriately.

“We regularly carry out Acts of Remembrance throughout the year. We are conscious that Remembrance is also important to the Moray community, many of whom have served, have loved ones currently serving, or have lost loved ones on active service.

“I met with RBLS Forres this week. We remain fully supportive of their efforts to hold a festival of Remembrance in November, and of the decision to hold the parade and wreath laying ceremony in Forres on 5 November 2017.

“In doing so, this enables us to provide the level of support we wish to offer for Forres and to pay our respects to our fallen friends and colleagues, whilst still fulfilling our commitments on 12 November 2017.

“We feel that this is the right balance, and further that this does not detract from the importance of other Acts of Remembrance taking place across Moray on 12 November, nor indeed Remembrance Day itself.”

Parliamentarians appeal

Last night Moray’s MP Douglas Ross and MSP Richard Lochhead joined several parliamentarians and local councillors who have already voiced concerns over the date switch.

Mr Ross said: “I understand that the Army has other commitments and that a number of personnel are away from the base making it difficult for them to be at various locations on the same day.

“However, people in Forres understandably feel very strongly that the Remembrance Parade should be held on Remembrance Sunday to allow us to pay our respects along with everyone else up and down the country.

“I would hope that 39 Engineer Regiment would consider the feelings of the town about this. As the Army are based at nearby Kinloss, which has a proud military tradition in Moray, there is an expectation that they will lead the main parade and tributes which are taking place nearby.”

Richard Lochhead MSP also called for a re-think in the face of strong public objections to the Remembrance Sunday parade being moved, saying:  “I have attended many of the Remembrance Day parades in Forres over the years and have always been impressed by the outstanding organisation and level of community support.

“First and foremost such events are for the community to remember the sacrifices so many men and women have made for our country – and our values and the wishes of local people are therefore extremely important.

“I appreciate this is a very difficult issue and the organisers face a real dilemma, but it is difficult to imagine no parade taking place on Remembrance Sunday in Forres given the town’s long standing tradition and the public’s wish to pay their respects despite the 39 Regiment’s lack of availability.”

Editor’s Comment

There is no doubt that RBLS Forres have every right to hold Remembrance events on dates and times of their choosing – their members earned that right through the sacrifices they and their colleagues made on behalf of us all.

However, all branches of the military are steeped in tradition, they more than anyone recognise the importance of upholding all that is good in UK society and have carried that throughout their lives – from the moment they took an oath of allegiance to the crown.

Remembrance Sunday is special – it holds an important place in the hearts and minds of us all.  To treat that very special date on the calendar as something that can be moved for the sake of convenience or to ‘draw a larger crowd’ is just, quite simply, wrong.

RBLS Forres should take note of the strength of feeling in Moray against these proposals – they should be left in no doubt whatsoever that the decision, for whatever apparently sound reasons it may have been made, is just plain wrong.