Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have been banned from marching in a local Remembrance Parade this year due to “safety reasons”. Leaders of the groups said they were very disappointed, but the organisers have refused to give any further reason for the ban.
For the children in the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, and their younger counterparts in the Cubs and Brownies, the chance to march in local Remembrance Day parades is an opportunity to learn about the history of their country and to connect to older generations within the community.
But in one Bedfordshire town, children in all four groups have been banned from taking part, apparently over safety concerns. Up to 70 military personnel are expected to join this year’s parade in Biggleswade, but for the first time, the children will not be joining them.
A spokeswoman for Girlguiding’s Biggleswade District told Bedfordshire News that the girls had been disappointed by the ruling, adding “discussions are currently taking place to see if our members can parade or not.”
She said: “We will still attend the service to mark our respect.”
Gerry Pope, district commissioner for Biggleswade and District Scouts, also said that his organisation had been “saddened” by the decision. However, he confirmed: “We will be attending the service in Market Square and will be laying our wreath.”
A spokesman for the Royal British Legion, the parade organiser, confirmed that the children had been asked to gather in the market square rather than take part in the parade due to “safety reasons”. However, she refused to expand on what those reasons were.
The decision is believed to be the first time the Royal British Legion has banned children from taking part in a march or service.
Mike Hookem, defence spokesman for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) called the decision “disgraceful and disrespectful to both the fallen of the past, and to today’s armed forces.”
An army veteran, Mr Hookem added: “Having young people involved in Remembrance is more important than ever, because the two world wars are quickly slipping from living memory. Denying children the chance to pay their respects and learn about the sacrifices that allowed them their freedom today is disrespectful to the fallen.
“Maybe the local Royal British Legion in Biggleswade should remember the words of Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’, that states, ‘We will remember them’. By excluding children from this type of parade, I’m afraid that it could soon become yet another British tradition that falls by the wayside through ignorance.”
Mr Hookem has called on the British Legion to explain more fully why the decision was made.