A group of Star Wars enthusiasts dressed as Stormtroopers and Darth Vader have been accused of “disrespecting” our armed forces – by joining in a town centre military parade.
Members of the 501st UK Garrison – one of the world’s biggest Star Wars fan clubs – took part in an annual family fun day by greeting youngsters and posing for photographs.
But when members of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force paraded through the streets of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the film fans joined in.
The group – including a Darth Vader, several Imperial Stormtroopers and Scout Troopers, a TIE Fighter pilot and a handful of Jedis – marched directly behind the army band.
Local resident Nick Tolson, a former Air Cadet, accused the group of “thinking they were more important than the army”.
He wrote on Facebook: “I was annoyed at the disrespect shown to our services by the ‘Star Wars’ actors who decided that they were more important than the army and the air force and marched directly behind the army band in the parade from the Market Place to the Park.
“Great Britain respects its forces by having a strict order of protocol on parades.
“The Navy are the senior service, followed by the Army followed by the Air Force.
“It does not mention Star Wars characters.”
Members of UK Garrison attended the Collett Park Festival in Shepton Mallet last Saturday (June 8) to support a fundraiser by Devon and Somerset Air Ambulance.
To start the event, VIPs and star attractions met in the town’s Market Place before new town crier Andy Neal led the procession through the town to the festival site.
They were even snapped with two Royal Navy Reserves – Able Seaman Simon Davies New Entry Recruit Josh Vincent – who were manning a recruitment stall at the event.
But Mr Tolson has called on the UK Garrison to apologise.
He said: “The parade was a formal parade.
“I hope that the Star Wars actors apologise for their temerity in thinking that they are senior and more important to our armed services.
“I am proud to be British and am proud to have served my country in the armed services.”
But the Empire struck back, with Star Wars fans mocking Mr Tolson for over-reacting.
Star Wars enthusiast Sam Regan, 24, said: “I don’t know what he’s complaining about.
“It was a laugh – there’s no need for lightsabres at dawn.
“It’s a Stormtrooper in a teacup really – there really was no Dark Side of the Forces on display.”
Local Councillor Derek Marvin, one of the main organisers of the festival, insisted the march was not a full military parade and was therefore not subject to normal protocols.
He said: “This was not a military parade, that is what we have for Remembrance Day where we do keep to the protocol.
“This was a procession that was meant to recreate for the town the atmosphere of Collett Park Day, to give people who were in the town centre at that time a taster of what they would find at the park.
“We have the greatest respect for all who have or who is currently serving in any of our armed services, but this day was about our local heroes, members of the police, ambulance, fire services and air ambulance, who also put themselves on the line for us.
“The Star Wars group were there to support the Devon and Somerset Air Ambulance in particular and Collett Park in general and what a fantastic job they did.
“I don’t want anyone unhappy but also I don’t want negativity to overshadow what was otherwise a very successful day.”