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Sandwich's Remembrance service could face longer road closures after a marshal was threatened last Poppy Day

By Beth Robson

Event organisers may close roads for longer at a town's Remembrance Sunday service this year after a marshal was threatened twice at the commemorations last November.

If agreed, the changes being put forward by Sandwich Lights Committee will prevent younger or more elderly volunteers being placed at risk of violence, says victim Simon Mallett.

But it does mean the roads will be closed for longer than he feels necessary - potentially inconveniencing residents for up to an hour and a half.

Sandwich War Memorial on the centenary of the end of the First World War
Sandwich War Memorial on the centenary of the end of the First World War

Shockingly, 61-year-old Mr Mallett was threatened by the driver of a large white Peugeot van just minutes before Sandwich’s commemorative service began on Sunday, November 11.

Mr Mallett had stopped him from entering Delf Street outside the New Inn to allow councillors to process safely from the Guildhall.

Usually once they have arrived at the War Memorial in Market Street, the marshals stand down the restrictions and traffic is free to flow. They then close the road again for the service procession to St Clement’s Church.

But last year, which marked the centenary of the end of the First World War, the commemorations attracted more people than usual.

When Market Street was filled, they spilled out into the intersection of Delf Street, No Name Street and New Street.

It meant the voluntary marshals had to keep the road closed and redirect traffic for longer to keep pedestrians safe.

It was at this point he says that another driver threatened him, despite having children in the car.

Sandwich town centre
Sandwich town centre

Both men waved their fists at him but Mr Mallett believes the two incidents were unconnected.

He said: “The first man would’ve seen my sign held up. He came straight at me, I felt he was accelerating and then he slammed his brakes on.

"I was stopping him saying ‘no you can’t go down there’ and he went to drive around me so I had to move to stop him. At this time the procession was visible. I saw his fist and he said ‘let me through’.

“I think he then wanted to go into No Name Street to go into the one way system.

"I was still getting the fists but then he stopped because there were a lot of people in front of him. I stepped back and two people went and had a word with him.

“He was moving right up to me. I’m 61 but had it been a child or teenager, whether they help again with marshalling is another thing.

“I found his actions very intimidating. I was afraid for my safety. And of course those in the parade. He later drove off down King Street.”

Market Street in Sandwich
Market Street in Sandwich

The second incident was 10 minutes later. That driver went down Delf Street but because of the large crowd couldn’t access King Street. He went to re-enter the one way system via No Name Street.

Mr Mallett added: “He stopped at the New Inn and I got him showing the fists to me. At this point I was thinking 'what’s going on?'”

Mr Mallett is a committee member of the Sandwich Lights Committee and many of their members volunteer at some of the town’s six main events each year.

For this Remembrance service, he will propose official road closures, which will require approval from Kent County Council.

This would be at no added cost because the committee already has the signs.

These are static and do not have to be manned meaning other volunteers would not be put into a vulnerable position in future.

“That way there is no individual associated with it but it mucks Sandwich up for a little bit longer,” he said.

Town clerk Laura Fidler, of Sandwich Town Council, said: “Unfortunately every year we find that some motorists can be unpleasant to our parade marshals (staff and volunteers) when their travel is interrupted by these temporary closures.

"However, if we extend the road closures across the town this could cause a greater problem for motorists.

"I’d be more than happy to consider any proposals that local residents want to make, the Town Council is forever grateful to the volunteers who make these events possible and their health and safety is paramount.”

Mr Mallett reported the threats to police the next day.

Det Insp Karl Davey from Kent Police Investigation Management Unit said: “Officers are investigating one report of common assault and one public order offence.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 01843 222289 quoting reference 46/9901/18.

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