Traditionally, the Town Council works with the Witney Branch of the Royal British Legion, local cadet forces and other organisations to plan for anniversary events such as VE, VJ and Remembrance Day. In this extraordinary year we are having to plan for very different acts of commemoration that take account of government guidance regarding the current COVID -19 situation.
Earlier this year, our local Royal British Legion Branch wrote to inform the Town Council that they would not lay wreaths, as they normally do, for events such as VJ day. This has been a very difficult decision for them to take and they are hugely disappointed.
Given the situation and the vulnerability of some of their veteran members, their decision is sensible and the Council completely understands and respect the limitations they have this year.
We are also mindful of the practicalities and difficulty of managing numbers and protecting attendees; members of the public, invited guests, volunteers and our veterans while gatherings of more than 30 people are not permitted by current regulations and guidance covering mass gatherings.
VE day, which was marked during lockdown, was a remote event with people encouraged to celebrate and commemorate at home.
While it is still not currently possible to invite people to an organised event that might potentially draw a crowd, the importance of these commemorations, albeit on a more personal level is recognised and acknowledged. For this reason the three public war memorials in Witney are accessible every day of the year with those on the Leys and Church Green, fully accessible to those with disabilities.
This enables and encourages people to visit a memorial at any time for quiet contemplation and to perform their own personal and private acts of Remembrance, as was the case on VJ Day on Saturday.
A simple low-key wreath laying was undertaken by the Mayor of Witney accompanied by the Town Clerk. Cllr Joy Aitman placed a wreath on behalf of the town. Other tributes had been placed by earlier visitors to the memorial and members of the public continued to attend throughout the day. Among these was veteran, Platoon Commander Russell Crawford (DLI, formerly OBLI) who had come to mark his respects at the memorial.