Talks produce no change of heart in Forres Remembrance row

TALKS BETWEEN COMMUNITY leaders and the RBLS Forres branch over the date of the annual Remembrance Service in the Moray town have not led to a change of heart.

However, they have produced a fuller explanation from the local ex-service organisation who had previously been accused of treating people in Forres with contempt.

Plans by the local branch of the RBLS to move the Remembrance Service in Forres so that it takes place a week earlier were met with dismay from many in the local community and heavily criticised by leading politicians in Moray and throughout Scotland.

The move came because soldiers at Kinloss Barracks were spread too thinly on the ground to cover the many commitments called on them on November 12, the day that Remembrance parades will be held around the country.

However, the decision – which would see the parade being held in Forres a week early for the second successive year – was not generally welcomed, with plans being laid to ignore the new date and hold a ‘peoples remembrance’ on November 12.

Forres Community Council stepped in and called for calm, contacting RBLS Forres in the hope that they might bring about a change of heart, with previous statements from the ex-service group having been described as “curt”.

Following these talks Graham Hilditch, chair of the community council, was informed by Eric Duguid, chair of the RBLS Forres branch that the November 5 date would stand – although he provided a more detailed explanation than had previously been given, and an assurance that the service would return to the normal date in 2018.

Mr Hilditch said: “Eric Duguid pointed out that the RBLS remit is to ‘hold an act of remembrance service’ on Remembrance Day, and that will take place at St Leonard’s Church on Sunday, November 12.

“The branch will also be in attendance at the war memorial on Armistice Day, November 11. The decision to have a wreath laying ceremony and parade on Sunday, November 5 was made by the Forres RBL in consultation with the area RBL. The reasons for this choice was that 39 Engineers had widespread commitments on November 12 and are required to have a small representation at numerous events.

“On November 5, a much bigger unit could attend the Forres parade. This had worked very well in 2016, the 300th anniversary of Royal Engineers.

“The Forres branch reasoned that a bigger parade would attract a bigger turnout of the public – which in turn would heighten awareness of the event. Although a parade is not an essential part of the ceremony, they felt that Forres had a history of putting on such an event, and should continue to try and do so.”

Mr Hilditch reported that the explanation given from Mr Duguid in his letter added an acknowledgement over the ill-feeling generated by the decision in the community.

He said: “Whilst the decision is controversial, and that some people will not agree, I feel that Forres RBL are actually organising three events to mark the occasion and that they should be commended for this.

“In 2018, a key year marking the centenary of the armistice, the date will revert back to Sunday 11th November – this commitment has been given by both Eric Duguid of Forres RBL and Lt Gen Irwin in his letter.”