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Ashford Remembrance Service guarded by police

By Georgia Woolf

Police are to patrol a Remembrance Service on Sunday after an angry veteran hurled a torrent of abuse at volunteers last year.

The Royal British Legion condemned the actions of the man last November, who called two female marshals “vile names” after they shut an entrance to the Memorial Gardens in Ashford to prevent overcrowding.

Now Ashford Borough Council (ABC) has arranged for a police presence at this year's event, which will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Entrance gates to the Memorial Gardens Picture : Gary Browne (5219128)
Entrance gates to the Memorial Gardens Picture : Gary Browne (5219128)

Cllr Stephen Dehnel, the authority's armed forces champion, says the council was concerned about the incident.

"We will have a police presence this year because any threatening behaviour is simply unacceptable," he said.

"Hopefully we have learnt from that and by having the police presence we will mitigate that out of it.

"We are conscious people want to be a part of it but the area around the memorial is restricted because of health and safety.

Cllr Stephen Dehnel
Cllr Stephen Dehnel

"If we had too many people crushing into a single space, there could be an incident so we have to be mindful of that."

Council bosses say there will be no access to the small war memorial garden for the general public.

The gate in Church Road - which sparked the veteran's anger last year - will remain locked all morning until after the service has finished.

But entrances in Station Road, Vicarage Lane and by Ashford College will be open to all.

Andy Clark photographed overcrowding at the Ashford Remembrance Sunday service last year
Andy Clark photographed overcrowding at the Ashford Remembrance Sunday service last year

Some bushes surrounding the war memorial garden have been removed to improve vision and a 20ft LED screen will be installed in the Memorial Gardens for visitors to view the service.

Cllr Dehnel added: "We are very conscious that a lot of people commented last year about the restricted view.

"We have installed a large LED screen and opened up the bottom end of the gardens so more people can look in and take part.

"Hopefully everyone who does attend feels a lot more part of it.

"People should most certainly not be anxious (about the police presence)."

Ashford Memorial gardens.Picture: Paul Amos
Ashford Memorial gardens.Picture: Paul Amos

Visitors are advised to arrive 10 minutes before the service begins at 11am, but the public can assemble in the gardens from 10am.

Order of services will be available to members of the public entering the Memorial Gardens and people wishing to lay wreath at the war memorial or plant crosses in the garden of remembrance will be allowed to do so once the service has finished.

It will start at 11am when a maroon will be fired to mark the start of the two-minute silence which will end by the firing of a second maroon.

Both will be fired from the former Kent Wool Growers site in Tannery Lane.

Visitors and residents are advised to use the free parking in Vicarage Lane car park or Edinburgh Road car park, which is free every Sunday.

Police spokeswoman Scarlet Drayson said: "As in previous years, we will continue to provide a presence at some Remembrance events across the county.

"Traffic management is the responsibility of the parade organisers and we will continue to provide support and guidance."

'I was totally amazed and so upset that this vile abuse came from a man who was clearly a veteran wearing his medals...' - Major Roy Bingham

Retired Major Roy Bingham, who was chairman of Ashford’s Royal British Legion (RBL) branch until stepping down due to family reasons, blasted the veteran’s behaviour last year.

He said at the time of the incident: “I was bitterly disappointed to hear from two female marshals wearing the Royal British Legion poppy hi-vis jackets that they were called vile names and verbally abused because they were instructed not to open the gates in Church Road.

“I was totally amazed and so upset that this vile abuse came from a man who was clearly a veteran wearing his medals.

“Both marshals politely said there was plenty of time to enter the gardens from the Vicarage Lane end, but were both given another bout of verbal abuse.

“This behaviour is totally unacceptable and the likelihood was that this veteran had had a few drinks as he was holding a can of beer.”

RBL branch secretary Caye Gould says the group is looking forward to Sunday's service.

She said: "We very much welcome the police presence as it is not an RBL role to police this event.

"The frustration of many veterans and the general public not being able to assemble around the war memorial is fully understood.

"That said, this year, ABC, through the sterling work of Cllr Stephen Dehnel, has ensured that by installing a massive screen in the Memorial Gardens, it will have the capacity to deal with the numbers attending, ensuring that all will have sight and will witness the whole Remembrance ceremony.

"ABC has also ensured the war memorial cross has been repaired after suffering wind damage and the plates carrying the names of the Ashford fallen all around it are now updated and completely revamped."

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