Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Royal Wootton Bassett signs ready

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott reveals the new sign for Royal Wootton Bassett

Wootton Bassett, the first town in more than 100 years to get the title of "Royal", has unveiled its new road signs.

The Wiltshire town officially becomes Royal Wootton Bassett this week when Princess Anne visits on Sunday. The title was bestowed in recognition of its efforts to honour the UK's war dead.

Repatriations of fallen troops have taken place through Wootton Bassett since 2007 and ended in September when they were moved to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

The town is renowned for the dignified and moving way local people lined the high street in silence with their heads bowed to show their respects.

Its people's actions have gained international recognition, with President Barack Obama describing it as the "best of British character".

David Cameron announced the town would be given the new title in March after he asked the Queen if she would bestow the title. He said the Queen had agreed to the tribute as "an enduring symbol of the nation's admiration and our gratitude to the people of that town".

The six signs of "Welcome to Wootton Bassett" in the town have now been replaced by Wiltshire Council to say "Welcome to Royal Wootton Bassett".

Paul Heaphy, mayor of Wootton Bassett, said: "Wootton Bassett is a very small, community-based town. We're very proud to become Royal, as the sign says, but I think it is also a time to reflect on why we are here and what we have done over the last couple of years. This was an organic movement from the bottom up and I think it goes to show that when people care about something they can make a difference.

"It started with a very small gathering and just grew to hundreds, if not thousands, for every repatriation. The basis of the repatriations was about support, support for the families and for the personnel that came through this town who were killed overseas."

The only other towns in England with royal in their title are Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells in recognition of their antiquity and royal patronage of their facilities. Leamington Spa was granted the title in 1838 by Queen Victoria and Tunbridge Wells in 1909 by King Edward VII.