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Royal accolade for Wootton Bassett

The Princess Royal has paid tribute to Royal Wootton Bassett as she officially bestowed the new name on the town.

She delivered the Letters Patent on behalf of the Queen, recognising the community's role in honouring members of the armed forces who died on service abroad.

Prime Minister David Cameron also attended the renaming ceremony, joined by new Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, making his first public appearance since taking over the role from Liam Fox.

Princess Anne told those assembled in the town's High Street, which has become synonymous with the repatriation of fallen servicemen and women, that they had "set an example that others wanted to follow". She said: "This community has come together in the most extraordinary way."

Royal Wootton Bassett is only the third town to be honoured in such a way, and the first to be awarded the "Royal" accolade in more than a century.

Princess Anne said it was a "town rich in tradition and secure in 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."

The town became famous as thousands of people began to turn out to pay their respects to the fallen servicemen and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan who had been repatriated at nearby RAF Lyneham, starting in April 2007.

Wootton Bassett's role ceased at the end of August when the base for repatriations moved to RAF Brize Norton, with the town of Carterton taking over as the place for grieving families and members of the public to pay their respects.

The town's mayor, Councillor Paul Heaphy, said: "The royal status is a privilege, yet it is received with sadness, mindful of the high price paid by our armed forces. This is not a day for celebration but one for commemoration, one of recognition, and one to mark the beginning of a new chapter for our town."


From Belfast Telegraph