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War wreaths binned from Dover War Memorial, Biggin Street, have caused outrage among ex-service men and families

By Beth Robson

The removal of wreaths from Dover War Memorial a week after Remembrance Sunday has caused outrage among relatives of The Fallen.

A volunteer member of the Royal British Legion White Cliffs Branch was seen placing the red poppy tributes into black bin liners on Monday after Storm Angus hit the South East.

But despite guidelines from the War Memorials Trust that their removal must be done in liaison with the local council and the RBL local branch, they were bagged up without consulting the branch or telling Dover Town Council, we can reveal.

A wreath laying ceremony at Dover War Memorial
A wreath laying ceremony at Dover War Memorial

Personal floral tributes like bunches of flowers have been kept there.

It prompted three calls to The Mercury from seething residents including Dover resident Augusta Pearson, the son of a prisoner of war held by the Japanese for three years Chris Morris, and ex-serviceman Allan Taylor.

RBL Branch secretary Brian Walton has apologised for the upset.

He said the volunteer took it upon himself to clear them away ahead of the repeat weather warning that 80mph winds were predicted for Monday night.

Residents are outraged that wreaths were cleared too soon from Dover War Memorial
Residents are outraged that wreaths were cleared too soon from Dover War Memorial

Mr Walton said the man had previously given his time to lay out the crosses as a Field of Remembrance outside the town council offices before last Sunday’s civic service.

“He didn’t tell us he was going to do it but he has since told me that a few of the wreaths were damaged.

“If he had told me that he was worried about the health and safety side of things, I would have agreed.”

“We do apologise if we did upset anybody but it was for health and safety.”

He reasoned that some may deem wreaths strewn about by high winds as disrespectful.

But Chris Morris, the son of the late former POW Joe Morris, doubts the weather was the only reason. He said: “Last year it was only nine days when they took them away and there was no wind then.”

A wreath, usually laid at Dover War Memorial by Chris Morris remembering his father Joe, is usually put at the place where he died after Remembrance
A wreath, usually laid at Dover War Memorial by Chris Morris remembering his father Joe, is usually put at the place where he died after Remembrance

Mrs Pearson said: “I’ve had so many emails and messages from people who are totally disgusted that the crosses and wreaths have been taken away after eight days.

“One of the people contacted me to say how disappointed he was to see they left the bin bags in full view while they went to have a cup of tea.

“My husband and I, every time we went out, put crosses back that had been blown over in the Field of Remembrance. Others have too.

“Most people in this town respect the war memorial why can’t the people in charge?”

“I’m absolutely seething. The same happened with the flag in the memorial grounds that was removed so quickly after the ceremony it was embarrassing.”

According to advice from the War Memorials Trust there is no specified time when wreaths should be removed from war memorials. It advised that the land or memorial owner put up a sign to say when they would be removed to avoid offending organisations or individuals.

Town clerk Allison Burton said Dover War Memorial is owned by the town council which organises the Remembrance service. The Field of Remembrance is organised by the RBL, which takes responsibility for clearing the wreaths.

Mr Morris said laying a wreath was the one thing he could do for his father, a prisoner of war held captive in Japan for three years.

He usually retrieves the wreath and puts it on a crass marking his place of death at Oxney Bottom, near Ringwould, 20 years after being released. But removing them has taken that chance from him.

Amanda Heafey and mother Jean Brett laid four wreaths on Remembrance Sunday. All four have been binned.

She saw it happen and said: "I was so shocked. I'd have asked for them back but I'm disabled and walk with crutches and there was no way I could walk with all those wreaths. I was dumbfounded to be honest."

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