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The little Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett is to be renamed Royal Wootton Bassett by the Queen in honour of its recognition of Britain's fallen soldiers, the first honour of its kind in 100 years.

Since 2007, it has been tradition for members of the public, including war veterans, to line the streets of the centre of the town as the hearses carrying the Union Flag-draped coffins of troops killed in Afghanistan pass by. Sometimes, even the family and friends of the victims are also there.

Wootton Bassett lies on the route that military corteges take from RAF Lyneham, where the planes carrying the coffins land, to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. It has only been since 2007 that this has been the case, hence it's only then that the Wootton Bassett tradition started.

However, the public tributes to fallen British solders in the town will end following the planned closure of RAF Lyneham.

Troops will instead have their repatriation at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, meaning Wootton Bassett is no longer on the mourners' route.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox thanked the people of the Wiltshire town for their dignified displays. He said: 'I would like to record publicly my thanks to the people of Wootton Bassett who have chosen to pay their respects in a unique and special way. It is such spontaneous public support that captures the spirit of the British people.'

Mary Champion, Mayor of Wootton Bassett, said: 'This is a great honour for our community as the repatriations move away from Wootton Bassett. Whilst we have never sought recognition for our simple act of respect, I am certain that this will serve to reinforce the pride and gratitude we feel for the members of our armed services who will always be in our thoughts.'

Wootton Bassett to be given 'Royal' prefix in rare honour by Queen

By John Mcdonnell
16th March 2011
Daily Mail


  • First honour of its kind to be granted in 100 years


Wootton Bassett is to be renamed Royal Wootton Bassett in recognition of its parades for fallen soldiers, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced today.

The honour - the first of its kind more than 100 years - was granted by the Queen.

Mr Cameron also confirmed reports that troop repatriations would no longer happen via the Wiltshire town from September due to the closure of a nearby RAF base.

Since 2007, locals have taken to the streets to mourn the deaths of around 150 British soldiers, whose coffins arrive from Afghanistan at RAF Lyneham.


Mourners pay their respects as a cortege carrying the bodies of seven British soldiers and Marines killed in Afghanistan passes through Wootton Bassett High Street in June last year. The town is to be renamed Royal Wootton Bassett


Friends and relatives of servicemen killed in action in Afghanistan salute the heroes as they pass through Wootton Bassett in November 2009

Mr Cameron said the tribute was 'an enduring symbol of the nation's admiration and our gratitude to the people of that town'.

He told the House of Commons: 'Their deeply moving and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning have shown the deep bond between the public and our armed forces.'

The Prime Minister made the announcement after making his regular tribute at the start of question time to the most recent military casualty in Afghanistan and said: 'The town will become Royal Wootton Bassett later this year in a move I believe will be welcomed right across our country.'

Wootton Bassett lies on the route that military corteges take from Lyneham to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.


T hree hearses carrying fallen troops drive through the Wiltshire town

However, the public tributes to fallen British solders in the town will end following the planned closure of RAF Lyneham.

Troops will instead have their repatriation at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, meaning Wootton Bassett is no longer on the mourners' route.

THE HUMBLE TOWN WITH THE ROYAL CONNECTION

Wootton Bassett is a small market town and civil parish in the county of Wiltshire in the south-west of England.

It was originally known as Wodeton, which means 'settlement in the wood', owing to its proximity to Bradon Forest.

One of its most famous former residents was Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII, who lived there until her death in 1548.

Before the Reform Act of 1832 it had the nickname Rotten Borough - a reference to the not-so-democratic elections that were held in the town.

The town has become synonymous with public mourning for fallen British war heroes over the past few years.

In 2007, two elderly former servicemen were seen saluting a military cortege and this tradition then began to spread as more and more coffins carrying British troops passed through the town.

Today, Wootton Bassett has become only the third town in history to be granted the prefix 'Royal'.

The previous two are Warwickshire's Royal Leamington Spa, which was granted the title in 1838 by Queen Victoria, and Kent's Royal Tunbridge Wells which was honoured by Edward VII in 1909.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox thanked the people of the Wiltshire town for their dignified displays. He said: 'I would like to record publicly my thanks to the people of Wootton Bassett who have chosen to pay their respects in a unique and special way. It is such spontaneous public support that captures the spirit of the British people.'

Mr Fox added: 'I am certain that RAF Brize Norton will maintain the standard of solemnity dignity and respect to our service personnel.'

Mary Champion, Mayor of Wootton Bassett, said: 'This is a great honour for our community as the repatriations move away from Wootton Bassett. Whilst we have never sought recognition for our simple act of respect, I am certain that this will serve to reinforce the pride and gratitude we feel for the members of our armed services who will always be in our thoughts.'

Peter Doyle, of Wootton Bassett Town Council, said the honour would be received with 'gratitude' by the people of the town and surrounding area.

But he added that the most the town had ever expected was to strengthen the covenant between the British people and their Armed Forces.

'The town has found itself during the course of the repatriations in front of the nation really through an accident of geography due to our proximity to RAF Lyneham,' he said.

'I think most people in the town would recognise and hope that any town in a similar situation would have done likewise.

'If we have helped do anything to promote the covenant that people have with our Armed Services and serving personnel then it may serve as an example to other communities - but that was the most reward that anyone in the town ever expected.

'I do not think anyone expected this but nevertheless it will be received with gratitude.'

Pastor Tim Ravenscroft, of the Wootton Bassett Community Church, said: 'I am very pleased for the town but this was not something sought by the town.

'I think the town will see it as a gift, not from the Government, but from the Queen and I think that will please them greatly.

'The most important thing is that this does not take the emphasis off our thoughts for the young men and women brought through the town.

'The most important thing is that their families realise that this was done out of respect for them rather than just seeking reward.'

He added: 'I think it has been a very personal gift to the families and those who have lost their sons and daughters and husband and wives.'

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