Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 15:54 UK

Hotel apology for soldier refusal


The hotel has since apologised for refusing a room to Cpl Stringer

A hotel has apologised after a soldier was refused a room while he was on leave visiting an injured colleague.

Corporal Tomos Stringer, 23, from Gwynedd, was visiting a wounded friend in Woking, Surrey when he was turned away. He spent the night in his car.

Cpl Stringer, who himself has a broken wrist, was on leave from Afghanistan.

The Metro had experienced problems with soldiers staying there and staff had been asked to be "cautious". But it admitted a "mistake" in this case.

The Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth has written a letter, calling for an explanation.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are very surprised that any company would adopt a policy to exclude members of the armed forces who generally enjoy great respect and gratitude for their professionalism, courage and bravery.

"Our service men and women make great sacrifices on behalf of us all, and they deserve our wholehearted support."

Military ID

Corp Stringer, of 13 Air Assault Regiment RLC, was refused a room at the hotel under its "no military personnel" policy.

He was visiting a wounded colleague in the area in June and was home from Afghanistan on recovery leave after breaking his wrist jumping out of a wagon.

He has since returned to Afghanistan but his mother, Gaynor Stringer, said he was still angry at his treatment.

The hotel receptionist asked to see his identification and when he showed his military ID card, she told him military personnel were not welcome.

Mrs Stringer, who lives at Pentrefelin, near Criccieth, said: "That was at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night. He slept in the car that night. He just couldn't believe what had happened.

She added: "I can't believe this has happened to one of our soldiers in his own country. He just didn't know how to react.

"We've been to America and their military get treated like heroes over there.

"I think it's terrible they [UK service personnel] can't even wear their uniform with pride."

Defence Minister Derek Twigg said: "This case is especially egregious given that the individual concerned was on injury leave from Afghanistan and visiting an injured colleague.

Corporal Tomos Stringer
The 23-year-old had broken his wrist jumping from his army wagon

"The government and, it is fair to say, the vast majority of people in this country, hold the professionalism, courage and contribution made by all those who serve, and have served in the armed forces in very high regard.

"I am delighted that the armed forces generally enjoy immense respect and gratitude on the part of the nation and that contrary sentiments are rare, though evidently they exist."

Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams said he also wanted to take the matter further.

He said: "I was astonished when I heard the story from Mrs Stringer. I can't see why any hotel would want to refuse accommodation to a serving member of the armed forces anyway.

"Tomos was not in his uniform, he was a traveller like anyone else."

The Metro Hotel said it "sincerely apologises for any upset caused towards Cpl Stringer and his family following the incident at the hotel.

A spokesman said: "The hotel management has always had an open door policy to all its visitors and guests, including members of the military and armed forces, and will continue to do so."

He added: "On this particular occasion there was a mistake made by a duty receptionist and the hotel management sincerely apologises for that mistake."

The matter had been raised by Plaid Cymru MP Mr Williams, who received a letter back from the hotel complex manager last week saying it regretted the way the matter was dealt with.

A manager in the letter said the hotel had in recent months "experienced some rather serious incidents" resulting from the stay of personnel from a local barracks and staff had been requested to be "cautious" in taking future bookings from the armed forces.

Managers were asked to assess cases.

"In almost every case the booking is accepted. This process does not appear to have happened in this case, for which I sincerely apologise. We also fully recognise and appreciate the tremendous courage and sacrifices made by member of our armed services".

Meanwhile, police were called to the hotel on Thursday lunchtime after the hotel claimed it had been threatened by "abusive" phone calls.

A spokesman for Surrey police said: "Officers were called to the scene because of claims of abusive, offensive and threatening phone calls towards the Metro Hotel.

"The calls were in relation to the soldier being refused entry."

The spokesman added: "We will monitor the calls to see if an offence has occurred, if it has then we can trace the calls and further action will be taken."

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