UK/ Felixstowe: Veteran who started Wootton Bassett repatriations to honour war dead is set to appear in BBC documentary
UK/FELIXSTOWE: It’s one of the most emotional, powerful and poignant sights on TV.
The streets of a small country market town lined with hundreds of silent mourners as a hearse draped in a union flag brings another of the country’s war dead home.
Next year, though, the duty will no longer fall to Wootton Bassett – soon to take the title of royal in recognition of the honour it has bestowed on the servicemen – as nearby RAF Lyneham is set to close.
One Normandy veteran, however, hopes there will not be another repatriation – either in his adopted town Wootton Bassett, or at Brize Norton, where the planes would fly into in future.
Ken Scott, 94, originally from Felixstowe, was among those who first suggested the honour for those who pass through the Wiltshire town on their final journey.
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“I was in the town with some friends one day and we saw a hearse draped in a union flag pass by and we wondered who it was,” said Mr Scott.
“We naturally assumed it was a military person because of the flag, but no-one knew about it and we asked the Royal British Legion welfare people because we assumed it was an old soldier.
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“Later we found out it had been a young lad killed in Afghanistan and was being taken through the town here on his way to Oxford.
“We decided then that we couldn’t let a member of the armed forces go through our town without us recognising that fact.
“We decided we would find out when each soldier was coming home and would stand in the street in our blazers and grey trousers as a mark of respect as the cortege passed and, as ex-servicemen, salute them.”
After other residents saw the tribute, townspeople joined in and now thousands line the streets every time a hearse carrying a serviceman’s body passes through. There have been more than 300 honoured in this way.
“Our greatest wish is that there would not be another repatriation, either here or at Brize Norton,” said Mr Scott, a former Durham Light Infantryman and Wootton Bassett Royal British Legion life vice-president.
“The saddest thing is that these soldiers should not be there in Afghanistan.
“I don’t believe they are defending our country. This war is not our own – we should not be going into another nation, another culture, like this.”
? Tonight at 9pm on BBC1, Mr Scott is featured in a documentary called Wootton Bassett: The Town That Remembers, which looks at the way the town has honoured the war dead.