War veterans and enthusiasts who dress up in authentic period costume have been stunned that event organisers are now looking into possible restrictions on the swastika and other SS regalia.
The gala has raised more than £12,000 for the military charity, Help for Heroes. The row blew up in Haworth after 30 visitors from Bradford’s twin town of Hamm complained about re-enactors wearing the uniform of the 60th Panzer unit. Because the unit was one of a number “badged up” as an elite SS force, tank crews sported swastikas and the death head skull insignia.
One of the German visitors who spotted two men wearing the sinister black garb during this weekend’s event exclaimed: “This can’t happen in our country.”
Local parish councillor Barry Thorne, 65, who was giving the visitors a guided tour then confronted the bemused men, saying: “Can’t you leave here? You’re a disgrace.”
One of the organisers, Peter Hill, has now been asked by the festival committee to investigate the legalities of displaying the swastika with a view to avoiding any more complaints.
But pub landlord Mark Stanford, who regularly takes part in the event dressed as a British soldier, said: “At end of the day you can’t airbrush out history.
“One of those wearing the SS Panzer uniform was a 22-year veteran of the British Army who had been all over and been highly decorated.
“We were not just celebrating the fact we won the war but the British spirit shown in it and the swastika was part of the actual uniform of the 60th Panzer Tank Unit.
“I can understand why the Germans reacted as they did, but it was a 1940s event they were attending.
“I am not a big fan of the swastika, but you can’t just make it a one-sided British or Allied event. It is not as if they were dressed as Gestapo or Nazi Brown Shirts or even actual SS.”
West Yorkshire great grandfather and former Lancaster Bomber gunner and radio officer Don Crossley, 87, who led a failed campaign to stop his local council renaming a bypass after a town in the Ruhr where he was nearly shot down, said: “Anything to do with the swastika makes my hackles rise anyway. But it is funny that the Germans objected to an emblem their country invented.
“You would think it would be someone on our side who would be offended. It seems we have to be politically correct – which to me is a term which should be struck out the English language. There are things happening in this world that needs to be rectified before I pop my clogs. I’m afraid there are too much politics these days and not enough substance.
“The Germans always struck me as overdressed anyway. The uniform was very pretty to look at - though a bit sinister.”
Mr Crossley, from Upton in West Yorkshire, fought for two years against plans to rename the £24m Hemsworth bypass in Pontefract after Sprockhoevel Way in the Ruhr. He wanted the road named in honour of Britain’s war dead.
Nikki Carroll, one of the organisers, said: “This year we had less people wearing swastikas than we have had in the past. We raised £12,000 for Help for Heroes and the money is still coming in.
“We have had fantastic feedback but this is something serious and we need to act on it. Peter is going to look at our rights and the rights of the re-enactors because we can’t just stop people turning up. The last thing we want to do is upset anyone for any reason because we do this for charity and the community.”
But Mr Thorne added: “They were Nazi uniforms and anyone who says different has less intelligence than my cat. They were about as welcome as Dracula in a blood bank and I basically told them to b..... off. There is nothing honorary about wearing a swastika on your arm. Some people think I have gone over the top. But the Germans were shocked it happened here because it could not happen in Germany.”