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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 18:30 GMT
Brown condemns no-uniform advice
Marching personnel
Police say they have not received complaints about abuse
Gordon Brown has condemned reports that RAF personnel at a Cambridgeshire base were advised not to wear uniform in public for fear of verbal abuse.

He said armed forces members should be "encouraged to wear their uniform in public and have the respect and gratitude of the British people".

The decision not to wear uniform was taken by the station commander at RAF Wittering near Peterborough.

Defence minister Derek Twigg blamed "a tiny minority" for the abuse.

It has been claimed that verbal abuse has been directed at service personnel by people opposed to UK involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The police don't have records of any serious problems
Stewart Jackson MP

Cambridgeshire police said they did not know of any abuse reported in the city.

The guidance was issued in January 2007 advising personnel to wear civilian clothes in certain areas for fears of abuse. It followed a verbal incident in December 2006.

The city's Conservative MP, Stewart Jackson, said: "The police don't have records of any serious problems. My understanding is that it's a small number of incidents of verbal abuse."

The Mayor of Peterborough, Marion Todd, said the decision not to wear service uniforms was a "sad day for the city".

'Great shame'

Mr Twigg condemned the incidents of abuse "on the day we've got 184 members of the armed forces being honoured for their courage and bravery".

HAVE YOUR SAY
If you are anti-war and feel the need to sling insults then direct them at Westminster
Mark Topper, London

Tory leader David Cameron said police should come down "extremely hard" on people targeting members of the armed forces in the streets.

He said: "The overwhelming majority of the British people think what they do is extremely brave and professional and we're really proud of them."

A government review of the public's perception of the military is currently being carried out.

It has been suggested as part of the review that soldiers may be encouraged to wear their uniforms off-duty to boost their popularity.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Glenn Torpy, said: "Whatever people's views are about specific military operations, everyone should be able to recognise the bravery and professionalism of our Armed Forces and respect the difficult job they do.

"This is a very isolated incident. We have got to work now with the local authorities and the local police to make sure that we can, very rightly, wear our uniform."

Speaking on Thursday, Defence Secretary Des Browne said it was "a great shame that some individuals in this community don't respect our forces".

He added: "I hope that by working closely with Peterborough City Council and the local police, service personnel at RAF Wittering will soon be able to wear their uniforms freely about the town with the support of the local people."

RAF Wittering was established in 1916 and more than 2,000 servicemen and women are based at the station.


Your comments:

This is appalling. RAF employees should not be asked to refrain from wearing their uniform if they wish to do so. It should be a matter of pride to wear such a prestigious uniform. Every single person in the UK owes the RAF a huge amount of gratitude for the job they do. I would not hesitate to thank anyone wearing a forces uniform; we owe our freedom to them.
Julie Butchard, York

When I was at university, and a member of the British Army's UOTC at that university, we were all advised to not wear uniforms in public unless completely unavoidable. This kind of discretion has been a long standing part of the Army's way of ensuring the safety of both its members and the public. The same advice was widely accepted as common sense when I later attended other Army establishments. The policy of discretion allows the military to carry out its duties more efficiently and with minimum disruption to civilian life. After all, the military's purpose is to serve civil society, it is not civil society's purpose to idolise the military.
David, Scotland

People do often give you second looks when in uniform but the majority of the time, it is for the best - very few make negative comments about the work of the armed forces. It is a shame those in some cities do not respect the work we do.
Alex, Liverpool

I'm a Brit living in the United States and I'm very much aware of American opposition to the war in Iraq. However, American service men and women are not being abused but are given respect by the American population. British servicemen and women should be given the same respect for the job they are doing. Those who want to protest the war can do so - but not at the expense of those who put their lives on the line to defend the right to protest.
Mick Cook, La Crosse Wisconsin USA

I used to be in the University air squadron at Birmingham. I used to have to travel in uniform sometimes but generally tried to avoid it because it makes people uncomfortable. It's not like a police uniform where someone wears it to make it clear they are there to help. It's just a reminder of an authority and power we chose to overlook in this country and seeing a uniform in public reminds many of political instability around the world or in Europe's own history. For this reason there is a healthy mistrust of authority in this country and wearing a uniform can seem inflammatory and needless unless on duty as opposed to Japan for example, where uniform is very important and respected by many. In this country Policemen don't go to the pub in uniform, why should off duty officers and airmen etc wear the uniform. It seems a confused affair. In my experience life was simpler keeping it in my bag until on base.
Jack Nunn, Loughborough



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Gordon Brown statement



SEE ALSO
Airmen told 'no uniforms in city'
07 Mar 08 |  Cambridgeshire
Airport denies army uniform ban
04 Jan 08 |  West Midlands

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