Community leaders are engulfed in a furious row today over a flagpole sited next to their village’s war memorial.
Officials from the Dersingham and Sandringham branch of the Royal British Legion have branded parish council chiefs as “dictators” in a dispute over the village’s recreation ground, on which the memorial stands.
But the council has hit back, accusing the legion of insulting the nation’s war dead by flying the Union flag upside down in what the branch says is a sign of distress at its treatment.
Parish councillors voted to ask the legion branch to donate the installation and flag to them at a meeting this week.
If it declines to do so, the council says it will remove the flagpole altogether and install its own.
But the branch has threatened to seek a court injunction to stop the council from pursuing the plan.
Its chairman Valerie Brundle, who is also a parish councillor, said: “It belongs to my branch and the supporters who donated for it.”
However, the council’s chairman, Sue Payne, yesterday dismissed the threat, saying: “It’s on our property. We can remove it.”
The latest dispute between the two groups comes after the Union flag was flown upside down on the flagpole for several days last month.
The legion says that was done as a sign of distress, commonly known in military circles, at the parish council’s behaviour towards them over an event it held on the recreation ground on the May Day bank holiday.
They claim they had been trying to contact council officials in order for them to open the gate to the ground ahead of the event, without success.
They also say police were contacted when they opened the barrier themselves.
But Mrs Payne accused the legion of a “lack of communication” with the council over its plans for the event.
She also claimed the authority had asked the legion for an explanation of why the flag was flown upside down,in response to complaints from villagers, but did not receive one.
When the legion’s claim of distress was put to her, she said: “That is outrageous. It’s an insult to the people who laid down their lives for this country. If that’s true, it’s beyond words.”
The groups are also divided over the management of the recreation ground area, which the war memorial is part of.
The legion claims that, following this week’s meeting, groups seeking use of the ground will now be forced to formally hire the site, giving two months’ notice to the parish council if they wish to hold an event there.
And it says that even means they would have to seek the council’s permission to hold its traditional remembrance service.
Mrs Brundle said: “It’s got to stop. It’s like a dictatorship. If you’re ever in North Korea it’s a different matter, but this is England.”
But Mrs Payne said the council was only seeking notification and details of intended events.
She said: “We are trying to formalise the use of our recreation ground and the war memorial is part of it.”