THOUSANDS of poppy crosses will be planted to remember Rotherham’s war dead — but it is unclear whether the parade and ceremony will go ahead on Remembrance Sunday.
Members of the Rotherham, Rawmarsh and Parkgate branch of the Royal British Legion will be creating a display of more than 2,500 crosses in Clifton Park, each one bearing the name of a fallen soldier.
But they will not be participating in any parades or ceremonies in the borough due to Covid-19.
Rotherham Council, which is responsible for organising the annual service at Rotherham Minster and Clifton Park, did not respond to the Advertiser’s queries about whether the event would be going ahead.
A service and wreath-laying ceremony usually takes place at Rotherham Minster and Clifton Park on Remembrance Sunday to commemorate Rotherham’s fallen.
Ron Moffett, branch chairman, said he would be laying wreaths at memorials in Clifton, Dalton and Rawmarsh and at Moorgate Cemetery between Remembrance Sunday, which falls on November 8, and Armistice Day, November 11.
He said the crosses would be planted over the same period.
Mr Moffett said: “As far as the legion is concerned, we have been directed not to have any involvement in parades.
“We fully understand why we can’t have a parade. It’s the same for the Poppy Appeal.”
The crosses project was started two years ago by Mr Moffett’s wife Sally and each one bears the name, unit, date of death and, where possible, regimental badge.
Initially, the crosses bore the names of First World War soldiers, but last year the names of servicemen from the Second World War were added.
They will be planted on the raised ground behind the park’s memorial.
Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, called on the Government last month to provide urgent guidance so ceremonies could go ahead safely.
He wrote to defence secretary Ben Wallace, who had previously assured him in the House of Commons that he had been working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on guidance for remembrance services.
Mr Healey wrote on September 25: “They have washed their hands of any concern about local remembrance events and say the department is only responsible for the National Service of Remembrance in Whitehall.
“Given the special nature of these events and those attending, and the fact that all those organising ceremonies at cenotaphs face similar challenges and concerns, Government guidance to give them similar confidence in their arrangements is required.”
Mr Healey told the Advertiser this week: “It’s a matter of regret important local tributes have been left to fend for themselves.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said all branches of the Armed Forces would be represented at the Cenotaph parade in Whitehall.
“As with the successful 75th anniversaries of VE and VJ Day, every effort will be made to ensure we pay our usual due respect to the fallen and to our veterans, including in local areas,” said the spokesperson.