Proud Wootton Bassett will rise before Princess Anne on Sunday with its new ‘Royal’ status.
As announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on March 16, Her Majesty the Queen has agreed to tribute the town with the Royal title “as an enduring symbol of the nation’s admiration.”
The new title has been conferred, according to Mr Cameron, in recognition of the “deeply moving and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning” displayed by the town as each of the 345 bodies of servicemen and women were repatriated through the High Street.
The repatriations started in April 2007 as bodies were flown back from war zones to RAF Lyneham, passing through the town on the way to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
What started out as a handful of veterans saluting at the roadside to passing hearses, transformed into a national show of mourning.
Despite this, however, veteran Percy Miles, who was there in the beginning in 2007 at the side of the street at the first repatriation, has decided not to attend the ceremonies.
Wootton Bassett people will say they have never asked to be honoured for doing what they feel is the right thing, arguing instead that the fallen servicemen and women are the true heroes.
Despite this, the displays of respect and mourning, the closure of the High Street and the hours that volunteers have devoted to ensure the smooth running of the repatriations has captured the nation’s hearts.
Wootton Bassett will become the first town in more than 100 years to be conferred the Royal title when the Queen signs the Letters Patent this weekend. It is one of three, alongside Royal Tunbridge Wells and Royal Leamington Spa.
Round up of events
THURSDAY The official unveiling of the new Royal Wootton Bassett road signs by Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, and mayor Paul Heaphy will be at 10.30am. Official opening of exhibition of gifts to the people of Wootton Bassett, by Group Captain John Gladston, Station Commander RAF Lyneham. This is an invitation-only function. The exhibition will be open to the public immediately following the official opening. The exhibition will run until Wednesday. SATURDAY Allsorts playgroup will be in the High Street with children dressed up in crowns and royal regalia from 10am to midday. High Street parking closes at 4pm. Church vigil of 345 candles at 8pm Screening of the Wootton Bassett charity single and music video at Riffs Bar, Hook, at 7pm. Entry £5. Al Sask’s Right Royal Ball, Wootton Bassett School, Lime Kiln, now sold out. SUNDAY High Street closed from 8am to 6pm. Fun fair at Lime Kiln. Poetry reading and book signing for Enduring Freedom, an Afghan Anthology from 11am to midday at the Conservative Club at 53, High Street, Wootton Bassett. The Vulcan Bomber will be performing a flypast, weather permitting, at 4pm. The flypast will be over Wootton Bassett but not the High Street. An all-day family fun day and disco, with a band performing in the evening, will take place at the Phoenix Club, High Street. The library will be open to the public on the day of the Ceremonial Appreciation event, this Sunday, from 2.30pm until 5pm. Sainsbury’s is holding a sampling session of Battlefield Wines to help support for the Royal British Legion. All of the post-tax profits from sales of the wine will go to UK forces charities.