Forces of Facebook turn on Daily Mirror

Campaign against reporter who dared to criticise Wootton Bassett cavalcade

The status of Wootton Bassett as a touchstone for the emotion generated by the war in Afghanistan was underlined yesterday when a
Daily Mirror journalist was sent death threats after he posted a blog that criticised a charity motorbike ride through the town.

In his posting, Chris Hughes, an experienced war reporter who has written many times on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote: "Now we've seen it all – hundreds of bikers showing their 'solidarity with frontline troops' by trundling their petrol-guzzling and fume-spewing steeds through Wootton Bassett... I wonder if someone – just for a change – could set a trend by doing something they hate doing to raise money for good causes."

He was referring to a procession by 15,000 bikers along Wootton Bassett High Street which is now closely associated with the crowds of residents paying their respects to hearses carrying the bodies of repatriated soldiers.

His comments sparked a furious internet campaign with 5,000 Facebook members calling for a boycott of the title and ended up with the Daily Mirror being forced to apologise for Hughes' posting.

Executives at the paper ordered the blog to be removed from its website after it attracted thousands of critical comments from the biking community, including several apparent death threats aimed at Hughes.

In his posting, Hughes, whose colleague Rupert Hamer, the Sunday Mirror's defence correspondent, was killed in Afghanistan in January, praised the motorcyclists for raising nearly £100,000 for the Afghan Heroes charity helping serving personnel in Afghanistan and bereaved families in Britain but poked fun at the wisdom of the cavalcade through the town last Sunday afternoon.

Internet forums were flooded with comments from indignant bikers and a Facebook site entitled "Boycott the Daily Mirror for insulting the bikers of WB charity run" had by yesterday attracted 5,204 members.

One critic wrote: "Why are people so quick to condemn the enjoyment of others? If you are going to raise money, do it by doing something you enjoy. In fact you should raise more money if you do enjoy it." Another poster added: "I've been a biker for over 25 years now and as such have always been intensely proud of who and what I am. The WB run serves yet again to remind all that bikers, as well as being people of action, fully recognise and honour enormous courage and self-sacrifice."

Because of its proximity to RAF Lyneham, the airbase through which the remains of soldiers killed in Afghanistan are repatriated, Wootton Bassett has been transformed into an unofficial focal point for the paying of respect to the fallen as hearses carrying the remains pass through the small town's High Street en route to the morgue at Oxford's John Radcliffe hospital.

The spontaneous tributes began in April 2007 when two members of the British Legion noticed the hearses shortly after repatriation flights were transferred from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Lyneham and stopped to salute. Residents began to join the informal ceremony and asked if they could be informed in advance of the journeys, starting a tradition which now sees every repatriation observed by onlookers standing up to 10 deep on the pavements.

In a statement issued by the Daily Mirror, Hughes said: "I did apologise for any offence caused by what I wrote and for making light of the sincere efforts of the bikers at Wootton Bassett. The view expressed was my own personal opinion, although I now see that this was inflammatory, given the subject matter."

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice