The visit by the Princess Royal on 16 October to bestow Letters Patent upon Wootton Bassett – only the third town in history to be accorded the title Royal- was marked by a quiet dignity and respect, and indeed sadness.
Some 14,000 people gathered on both sides of the High Street in bright sunshine to view the arrival of VIPs including an unexpected visit by the Prime Minister David Cameron and new Defence Secretary of two days Philip Hammond.
They heard Princess Anne express her feelings for the town which has honoured the repatriation of 355 servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan
As honorary commandant of RAF Lyneham she said she was touched how people had turned out to witness the cortege of seven crew who were killed in a Hercules crash in 2005 in Afghanistan. She said Wootton Bassett was being recognised for the way it had honoured those who had fallen since then, describing it as “a town rich in tradition, secure in itself and its sense of values.”
She added, "I am privileged to be allowed to add my thanks to those of Her Majesty the Queen and the whole country for the example you set in respecting with dignity the losses that this country’s operational responsibilities have forced upon us."
Addressing the crowd the town’s mayor Paul Heaphy said it was not a day for celebration and the Royal status was received with a sense of sadness. “We did not ask for recognition and we find the attention rather humbling. We hope when people see the road signs they will pause and remember why we are Royal, and, in doing so, remember the brave men and women of our forces.”
Swindon’s brewery Arkells has renamed the Borough Arms in Wootton Bassett High Street, which opened in 1843, as The Royal Inn. Outside waiting for the ceremony to get underway Bassett resident’s Brian and Linda Green said they were proud the town had been chosen to receive the Royal attention. "This title is not something we asked for and we’re sad that there had to be all those repatriations."
The day included a military marchpast, the blessing of a new coat of arms and a new flag for the town which now features a Royal lion, plus a flypast by an RAF Globemaster and the familiar Hercules which has now departed Lyneham, as well as the last Vulcan bomber.
Afterwards resident Clare Camm said, "it was a very moving and well organised event; it was wonderful to see so many people coming together, we are much closer town."
See the video edit of the day by Richard Wintle on YouTube
Pictures, top set, Jodie Henderson and Richard Wintle.
Bottom set of images, SwindonLink
Lydiard Park Field of Remembrance
For the second year the Royal British Legion is creating the Royal Wootton Basssett Field of Remembrance in tribute to all those who have served in our armed forces and are no longer with us, within the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park.
It will be open on Friday 11 November with a two minute silence and the last post from Royal British Legion buglers. The field will be open until Sunday 20 November.
St Mary’s Church at Lydiard Park, will be leading an Act of Reflection on each day the Field of Remembrance is open. Rev Clive Deverell at St Mary’s said, “from Saturday 12 to Sunday 19 November at 11am we will stop and pause, remember and reflect.”
On Sunday 13 November, St Mary’s 10am morning service will end in the Walled Garden with an Act of Remembrance.
On Sunday 20 November, the final open day, as the sun sets St Mary’s will close the Field of Remembrance with ashort service at 3.30pm.