Canadian pomp for fallen troops shames Brits

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Canadian pomp for fallen troops shames Brits

By THANE BURNETT, SUN MEDIA

The Toronto Sun

It's been a sad state of mourning in the U.K.

British soldiers serving in Afghanistan are calling up heartfelt images of the high honours given to their fallen Canadian counterparts -- who are brought home to a hero's welcome -- while motorcades carrying British comrades have done with a half-hearted outpouring during their return.

The amazing display of patriotism and loss shown in pictures from Canada -- as each soldier's hearse is given a police escort and public show of respect along the "Highway of Heroes," leading into Toronto from the airfield at CFB Trenton -- apparently shamed British officials yesterday into trying to give their dead a similar homecoming.

The pomp and sad circumstance afforded the dead Canadian fighters is watched closely by U.K. troops and their families.

"Pictures that should shame us all reveal the shabby way Britain treats its fallen heroes," a headline in last weekend's Mail on Sunday screamed.

'VERY DIFFERENT'

The story began: "They serve the same Queen, fight the same foe and lay down their lives with equal valour and sacrifice.

"But when the fallen heroes of Canada and Britain come home, the welcome is very different."

Canada has had more than 80 soldiers die in Afghanistan, while Britain has lost over 90.

The showing of full respect to the dead in Britain has come a little more than halfway in their procession's 88.5 km journey from a British air base to a facility in Oxford. At the start of that sad drive, a police escort is provided and citizens -- as we do in Canada -- line the route with tears, flags and hands on hearts.

But at the 48-km mark, the police escort provided by the Wiltshire department has to veer off as they hit the border with the Thames Valley Force. That department refused to offer up regular assistance, saying they weren't interested in taking part in ceremonies unless there was an "operational need."

During a recent homecoming of two British soldiers -- Lieut. John Thornton and Marine David Marsh, both from the 40 Commando Royal Marines who were killed while patrolling in Helmand province -- their English motorcade was left to get bogged down in traffic. Ignorant drivers routinely swerved in front of the hearses, even though the flag-draped caskets clearly could be seen in the large windows of the funeral cars.

"It's been a sad thing for our people to suddenly have to peel off," Insp. Mark Levitt, of Wiltshire Police, told Sun Media yesterday.

"I saw the pictures from Canada and ... it makes you want to cry."

Levitt says his members always knew the motorcades were heading on their own into a traffic-snarled and notorious Oxford stretch known as "ring road."

Add to this that the repatriation of the bodies back to England is not given much advance notice, or coverage, in the U.K. media so that the last stretch of the ride -- beyond Wiltshire's watch -- has been unheralded and lacking onlookers.

The Mail on Sunday quotes Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former army colonel, as saying: "Even in death our men are being scorned."

But Canada's reverence to our fallen may have spread. Wiltshire Police Insp. Levitt said the pictures of the Canadian homecomings, along with building media and public outrage in the U.K., has made the Thames force rethink not escorting the soldiers all the way home.

He's been told full escorts will now take place. Now he hopes the British media and public will take a page out of Canada's war diary.



[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFmXKMki8sA"]YouTube - Highway of Heroes Canada[/ame]
 
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