AN action group is set to be launched to ensure the service of as broad a spectrum of communities and faiths as possible is celebrated at Remembrance events.

The Darlington Borough Council move comes a month after a wreath was laid at the town’s Remembrance service by Billy Welch – the first time a representative of the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller community has done so.

Mayor of Darlington Councillor Nick Wallis said he had been struck by how members of the Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths speaking at Dedications of the Field of Remembrance in Darlington, and at a regional event at Saltwell Park in Gateshead.

He said: “I was conscious therefore that perhaps our Remembrance ceremony lacks that interfaith element which should be a fundamental part of the day – after all in World War One alone, more than 2.5 million other faith groups contributed to the Allied cause, whether as soldiers or labourers, including 400,000 soldiers in the British Indian Army.

“I am sure that there will be people in Darlington from all the major faiths who will have lost loved ones in conflict defending our nation.

“I have to say that when I have thought before about Gypsies and Travellers in the context of 20th century conflicts, it has been as victims of Hitler’s holocaust. What I have learnt from Billy Welch, however, is something of the enormous service that Gypsies, Travellers and Romanies made directly to the Allied effort in both world wars.

“I am delighted that Billy will continue to lay a wreath on behalf of his community in future years. “

Cllr Wallis said the Remembrance action group would include representatives from the major faiths, the Royal British Legion and the council and look at how people such a munitions factory workers had endured tough conditions.

He said: “Of course, this is an incredibly sensitive and important subject, and change should only be made with the overwhelming consent of everyone involved.”

Councillor Brian Jones, the authority’s Armed Forces Champion, added he was looking forward to developing “fully inclusive” Remembrance events. He said it was crucial to mark the service of people from all over the world who had fought alongside Britain as well as to remember the efforts of people on the Home Front who have gone through difficult times.