CWMBRAN’S annual parade commemorating Rorke’s Drift hero John Fielding VC has been saved by a Gwent Police U-turn over policing the event.
The annual January march in memory of the town’s Zulu War Victoria Cross hero was cancelled last month after police said they could not help with stopping traffic, as highlighted in the Argus.
Thanks to Torfaen MP Paul Murphy, supporters and the Argus, Gwent Police announced that it will now supply two police officers and two community support officers to assist organisers with traffic management.
Torfaen MP Paul Murphy wrote a letter to the force and a spokesman said the timing of the decision suggested they listened to his plea, as well as stories in the Argus and a flurry of letters from the public.
Mr Murphy said: “It’s a sensible decision as it is very important locally and of national significance, commemorating one of our greatest heroes.
“That’s why I wrote to the chief constable when I heard it was in danger. I’m glad a suitable arrangement has been reached.”
Organiser Stuart Cameron said he was “delighted” with the news, adding: “We are especially thankful to Gwent Police for their recognition of this special annual event.”
The event has been organised by Cwmbran and District Ex-Service Association (CDESA) for 16 years.
CDESA chairman Tony Burnett praised articles in the Argus and letters we printed.
He said: “It’s one of the fewcommunity things left in Cwmbran and we’ve had so much support from Torfaen council, MP Paul Murphy, our members and the Argus.”
This year’s march will now take place on Saturday, January 21– the anniversary of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift.
Private John Fielding, from Ty Coch in Cwmbran, served as Pte John Williams and received the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle, helping to defend a remote station against 4,000 Zulus.
The parade will leave from Abbey Fields roundabout, Llantarnam, at 10.40am, to go to St Michael’s Church, where Pte Williams is buried, where there will be a service.
Up to 400 spectators and 85 marchers usually descend on the town, with the Blaenavon Town Band set to head ex-servicemen this year.
Gwent Police had initially said they couldn’t police the parade because of changes in national guidelines on traffic management at events.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: A just decision
GWENT chief constable Carmel Napier is to be congratulated on the U-turn which has allowed the march commemorating local hero John Fielding to be re-instated.
The cancellation of the march was raised in the Argus letters page by a correspondent upset that Gwent Police were refusing to manage traffic along the route, in line with national police guidelines.
Several stories appeared in this newspaper and both local MP Paul Murphy and we appealed to the chief constable to review the decision.
Now the force has done so and agreed to police the route as usual, ensuring the 16-year-old event can continue.
We are well aware of the increasing constraints upon police budgets and the need to prioritise expenditure.
But occasionally there is a need to support community events, even if such support is against national guidelines, and we applaud the wisdom and the pragmatism of this decision.