Astonished and disappointed

I WRITE to you not in my capacity as Divisional Secretary of the Hastings and Rother Division, SSAFA Forces Help, a charity that helps ex-servicemen or their dependents in need, in our area, but as an individual with a service background.

I was astonished and disappointed to read your article in the Observer of March 8 about how the Freedom of the Borough should be exercised. It clearly illustrated how certain councillors and officers of the borough fail to appreciate either the ceremony itself or its meaning. This pageantry is fully celebrated across the country, in many towns and cities, with great pleasure, unity and harmony. Why not here?

To dilute the traditional format of exercising the Freedom of the Borough, as a demonstration of gratitude, loyalty and mutual support between a regiment and the civil community, is tantamount to an insult to anyone with service experience.

It might also be counter-productive for the council by being inflammatory in itself, particularly to those who are serving and have served. Perhaps all ex-servicemen and women in Hastings and St Leonards should seriously reconsider who they elect to represent their interests and protect their liberties? I certainly will.

Councillors and those who advise them may not realise it but they could be making history here in Hastings, yet again, albeit not so prestigious as becoming a Cinque Port or 1066. Hastings could be remembered as the first local authority in the country to perceive the Armed Services of the realm as a threat to the local community and peace in the 21st century. Paranoia is a word that comes to mind.

BERNARD STONESTREET

Beauharrow Road