Junior soldiers withdrawn from Remembrance parades

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HARROGATE’S Army training college has been criticised for withdrawing its junior soldiers from several Remembrance Day services in the district.

Last year, the Army Foundation College committed junior soldiers to around 20 parades, but next weekend the college will attend just seven.

Organisers of services in Pateley Bridge and Spofforth told the Advertiser they were very unhappy with the decision, which the college’s commanding officer has said is down to costs.

“Not to participate in the major Remembrance event in Nidderdale is a retrograde step,” said Brian Hicks, secretary to the Nidderdale Branch of the Royal British Legion.

“We are very unhappy about it, because they have said in the past that it is good for the college and for the students themselves.”

The Pateley Bridge service - always held on November 11 - is typically attended by over 100 people, as well as between 30 and 40 junior soldiers.

The organisers received a letter last month from Lt Col Khashi Sharifi at the college, which referred to the need to make “financial efficiencies”.

“As I am sure you will appreciate, the cost of supporting over 20 separate festivals of Remembrance is not insubstantial,” Lt Col Sharifi said.

He apologised for the fact the soldiers would not attend, as they had for the past four years, adding: “I have been directed where possible to rationalise our costs.”

Mr Hicks said: “If they are being told to save money, I find it strange that they are saving it by not attending Remembrance Day services, which is all part of the Army tradition.”

An Army spokesman said: “The Army Foundation College is fully committed to attending various Remembrance Day parades in Harrogate and surrounding area this year as well as the college’s own service to remember 50 past recruits and staff from the college who have been killed on operations in recent years.

“The college is unable to attend any parades or services on Armistice Day itself due to the importance being placed on the junior soldiers’ educational studies and military training – however, the traditional two minutes’ silence will be observed and their thoughts will be with other commemorations on that day. We have had some generous offers from the community however we are unable to accept them.”

Mr Hicks said this explanation was “a load of nonsense” since previous Pateley Bridge services had also been on working days.

For the full story, see this week’s Advertiser.

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