Lucy Crossley, Daily Mail, November 11, 2014
An Army veteran was assaulted as he walked to a cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday by a gang of thugs who tore off his regimental beret and medals.
George Gill, 70, had been walking through a park on his way to the service in Keighley, West Yorkshire, when he was attacked by a gang of Asian youths he said had grabbed his beret ‘like a pack of dogs would a piece of meat’.
The gang then ran off laughing, leaving Mr Gill with cuts to his lip, but the courageous former soldier dusted himself off and continued to the cenotaph to pay his respects before reporting the mugging to police.
Mr Gill, who served as a sergeant with 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington Regiment, had been wearing his khaki beret, navy blue blazer, maroon and grey striped tie–all three of which bore the regimental badge and the motto ‘Victory Favours the Brave’, when he set off on Sunday morning.
He had a poppy pinned to his chest and proudly wore his United Nations Cyprus and Northern Ireland medals on his right lapel.
‘I was walking to the cenotaph in the centre of town for Remembrance Sunday, the same route I have taken every year for as long as I can recall,’ he said.
‘I’d had stopped in Lund Park to look at the embers of a fire which had been lit near a sign when out of nowhere I was grabbed or hit from behind.
‘My beret was knocked off my head and I stumbled to the ground. I tried to stay on my feet because I didn’t know what would happen if I went to ground.
‘I had not seen the gang of about six to eight Asian lads before this and I think they had been hiding in bushes.
‘I had not seen or heard them or done anything to intimidate them. They were laughing and joking and speaking in a foreign language, not in English, so I don’t know what they were saying.
‘I was shaken and couldn’t understand what was happening. They had taken my beret as a trophy and they were tearing it at like a pack of dogs with a piece of meat. They thought it was funny.
‘They ran off laughing and joking out of the park near the bowling green, and then I realised my medals were also missing, so they must have taken those as well. My poppy had been ragged at but they had not managed to steal that.’
‘My lip was cut and I was shaken.
‘I can only think I was targeted because of what I was wearing because it was not a mugging or robbery, because I had £200 in cash on me and they didn’t take that or ask for money.’
Mr Gill has only recently returned home from hospital following an operation to fit stents in his heart and he is currently on 13 tablets a day for his condition.
He lives alone about 200 yards from the gates of the park and said the gang were aged 16 or 17 years old, but he did not recognise any of them..
Stoic Mr Gill continued his walk to the cenotaph for the 11am act of remembrance, paying tribute to fallen heroes and old friends.
‘There I met my nephew and I told him what had happened and he told me to report it to the police,’ said Mr Gill, who still attends monthly regimental meetings at his local Army Reserve centre.
‘I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it, but I thought I should report it to prevent anybody else being harmed.
‘After the Remembrance Sunday service I got home at noon and went straight to bed, I was that upset.’
Mr Gill joined the Army in 1966 and rose from Private to Sergeant until he left after completing 18 years of service and found a job in security.
During his Army career he served in Cyprus, Hong Kong, Japan, Gibraltar, Malaysia, and Northern Ireland, where some of his colleagues were killed.
He has lived near the for 60 years, and has seen its gradual decline.
‘It really has deteriorated,’ he said.
‘It used to have tennis courts and people played football there, the duck pond has gone and fires are being lit. The bowling green and pavilion have high security fencing to protect them from vandalism.
‘I used to have no fears about walking through the park, but I am now reluctant to use it–but if I don’t continue to go in they have won, haven’t they?’
Mr Gill said some of the gang were wearing hoodies, but because of the suddenness and shock or the attack he could not describe them in any better detail.
‘I want my medals back, I was proud to earn them and wear them. I also want my beret back, but I think that has probably been torn to bits,’ he said.
Inspector Sue Sanderson, who leads the Keighley Area Neighbourhood Team,has appealed for anyone who may have seen the gang to come forward.
‘We would appeal to anyone who saw a group of Asian youths acting suspiciously in the park at around the time of this incident, or anyone who may have seen them leaving the park afterwards,’ she said.
‘We believe there would have been other people around at the time, perhaps also making their way to the Remembrance Day service.
‘While not injured, the victim is understandably shaken by the loss of his beret and his medals.’