Cllr Amanda Grimshaw’s open letter:
Today the 24th of June I find myself forced to reflect not only on the coming week but the last year with not only sadness but a growing sense of irritation and disappointment.
On being duly elected in May 2019 as the Labour councillor for Moulsecoomb and Bevendean I found to my great delight that as a councillor your job extended far beyond your actual ward and it was with great pride that I found myself the city’s Armed Forces Champion.
I had for many years been a frequent visitor to the battlefields of the Western Front, not because I had any quest to look for the false glory of war, but in those arenas, we see humanity at its worst, but also at its very best, giving us greater understanding of my favourite passion, which is people and humanity in all its triumphs and struggles.
During those visits over many years, I had become personal friends with three D-Day veterans and I had the privilege to travel with them to many locations including the Normandy beaches. Those are some of my most precious and wonderful memories.
To become the City’s Armed Forces Champion really did feel a very special privilege.
One of my first outings in the role was to attend the Armed Forces celebration day events at Blind Veterans. It was a wonderful day, there I saw veteran residents, present serving armed forces personnel and also young people from our city from the army cadets taking part in the kit car display, this brought great delight especially as 2 of my own children had been members of the local Army cadet force and took part in the team and I had first-hand experience of how being a cadet builds confidence and can transform young lives.
Tomorrow is Armed Forces Day and as a city Brighton and Hove is holding no events at all, residents are advised to travel to nearby towns like Worthing where marching bands, military stalls, music and dance and a Battle of Britain Flypast is promised…
I would hang my head in shame at Brighton’s lack of events but I am no longer the Armed Forces Champion of the city as it is now run by a Green administration so I or the Labour Group have no input or influence over this year’s lack of events.
I have been reflecting on how in the last year, Brighton and Hove Armed forces Community Covenant, which represents a pledge of mutual support between the civilian community and its local armed forces has somehow been forgotten.
The Civil Military Partnership board has not held one meeting. The board was established to provide the necessary coordinating role for implementing the covenant.
Finally, on the 30th June the city should be commemorating the Battle of Boars Head, not to celebrate but because during that battle 61 men from our city lost their lives in one day. The ripple effect of so many losses in what was then the three small towns of Brighton, Hove and Portslade had a devastating impact. It was fathers, brothers, uncles and sons, cousins and friends. Those returning were often altered by the horror of the First world War for the rest of their lives, having, as ordinary working people, a mostly undocumented impact on their families’ lives too.
The commemoration of the Battle of Boars Head which could be very strongly argued as the most significant day of loss of life in the City’s history is not on the city Civic Calendar, it is left to the proud amazing group of local Royal Sussex Veterans to organise and commemorate.
Why is this not an annual event in the city’s civic diary?
This year the Royal Sussex Veterans, a small group of retirement age have as usual planned to have the commemoration ceremony. However, despite repeated requests for assistance to arrange for the loan of a microphone and speaker, at the time I am writing this they have had no response from the current Armed Forces Champion.
These people are your fellow residents, they are your fathers, sons, cousins, uncles, grandfathers. They are your neighbours!
Armed Forces Day is an important day in the country and why are we not taking part as a city?
Why have no meetings of the Civil Military Partnership Board taken place?
Why do our proud Royal Sussex Veterans have to struggle and fight to get assistance to hold a ceremony which the city itself should be hosting?
Ian Smith Royal Sussex Veterans Association has written to me – he says:
“Amanda, it’s a kick in the teeth for the veterans and all those that gave their lives for our freedom that the administration of Brighton and Hove won’t support us”.
I and the whole Labour group are ashamed and disappointed on behalf of our residents and call on the Green administration to at least ensure the veterans are supported in their commemoration of the Battle of Boars Head next week.
Labour Group Equalities Lead, Cllr Amanda Grimshaw
Image Credit: Armed forces day.