A SPLENDID sight in their best dress uniforms, the crew of HMS Edinburgh celebrated being awarded the Freedom of the City by marching up the Royal Mile in front of cheering crowds.
But one public house at the top of the historic street was far from free in its welcome – after the Ensign Ewart barred smartly dressed servicemen because of their uniforms.
Around 250 officers and other service personnel from HMS Edinburgh marched from Holyrood Palace to City Chambers on Friday, led by a navy brass band and drummers. They were in the Capital to mark the decommissioning of the 30-year-old ship.
The move by staff at the pub beside Edinburgh Castle has been condemned by the city’s Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, who had earlier reassured crew members that they would be warmly received at hostelries in the Capital.
Councillor Wilson said: “It is disappointing that having just received the Freedom of the City, which is the reason they were in dress uniform, that they would be refused service simply because they were wearing uniform.”
Cllr Wilson said that some crew members had told him they had heard military personnel would not be served in city bars and he had reassured them that was not the case.
“I was so pleased that the people of Edinburgh had given them such a warm welcome during the parade and it is very unfortunate that they had the negative of being refused to be served,” he said.
It is understood that more than one group of sailors were asked to leave the bar which had a notice pinned on the door saying “sorry, no uniforms”.
One serviceman even told Ensign Ewart staff that the Lord Provost himself had told them there was no law against serving military personnel, but was still told he must leave.
A navy spokeswoman said the men were not breaking any rules. She said normally crew would not be allowed to go out and drink wearing their uniforms, but because of the parade they had been given approval.
Before the parade, HMS Edinburgh Commander Nick Borbone described visiting the Capital as a “huge highlight of our tour” and described the city as the ship’s “spiritual home”.
A spokeswoman for the Ensign Ewart claimed staff had been following licensing regulations which she said made it illegal to serve people in full dress uniform.
She said: “We work within the confines of licensing laws.” However, council officials said there were no licensing laws banning people in military uniform from being served alcohol, and although in the past such a ban had applied to policemen, that law was no longer in force.
HMS Edinburgh arrived in Leith on Wednesday as part of a farewell trip around the UK. It leaves for Liverpool today, then continues on to its base in Portsmouth where it will be decommissioned.
WAVE GOODBYE TO ‘FORTRESS OF THE SEA’
The crew of HMS Edinburgh were parading through the city for the last time, after the Royal Navy announced the sale of HMS Edinburgh.
The Ministry of Defence’s Disposal Services Authority put the ship known as the “Fortress of the Sea” and another Type 42 destroyer, HMS York, up for sale as part of the Government’s Strategic Defence Review, which will see the navy’s surface fleet cut from 23 to 19 ships.
There has been a naval vessel carrying the Capital’s name since the 1700s but now HMS Edinburgh’s title will be mothballed until a ship of similar stature is again launched by the navy.
The Type 42 destroyers are being replaced by the Type 45 destroyers.