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Family of WW2 hero Major Sidney Excell: Humanist exclusion from Remembrance Ceremony ‘blatant discrimination’

The family of the late Major Sidney Excell, a committed atheist best known as the man who arrested Head of the Gestapo Heinrich Himmler have today said that they are appalled at the government refusal to include a humanist at the wreath laying ceremony on Remembrance Day. In a statement put out by the family they commented  ‘It is devastating to know that a man who played not a small role in history not be remembered by the country he so loved. It is disgusting that the Government has consistently denied requests for a humanist representative to be placed with religious representatives. We call for an end to this blatant discrimination – and that is what it is.

‘It is denying all secular service men and women, past and present, a representative when if they had been religious they would have been allowed one. All who serve should be remembered: secular, undecided, unaffiliated or religious. This is not a request for anything more than we be included.’

The UK Armed Forces Humanist Association, supported by the BHA, are running the ‘For All Who Serve’ campaign calling for humanist representation at the national Remembrance Ceremony. This is the fourth year of the campaign, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport continuing to refuse equal representation on the day of remembrance.

In the past two weeks almost a thousand people have written to their MPs through www.forallwhoserve asking them to make representation to the Rt Hon Hugh Robertson MP, who has responsibility for ceremonies, to ask again for equal treatment for those humanists who are current members of the Armed Forces and those who served their country in the First and Second World Wars. Two constituents of the MP Paul Murphy were shocked to receive a reply to their letters stating ‘While I respect your views on this issue, I do not agree with them. I am sure that the servicemen and women who died in our valley during the two World Wars, would have wanted a Christian remembrance.’

Pavan Dhaliwal Head of Public Affairs commented ‘Major Sidney Excell and those like him are national heroes to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. It is unfair that non-religious personnel like him, who now constitute the second largest belief group in the armed forces, have no representation at national remembrance events.  UKAFHA’s membership, which is an under-representation of its true potential, already outnumbers both Sikh and Jewish members of the armed forces – and both those groups already enjoy representation at the Cenotaph. All we ask is that a representative of UKAFHA to be included.

‘Comments like those of Paul Murphy MP are both insulting and disrespectful, exacerbating the exclusion that many feel. We are asking the government and the DCMS to end their discriminatory practice, and to treat humanist armed forces personnel in a fair and equal manner.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

The website of For All Who Serve:

Contact your MP to support inclusive Remembrance services:

More ways to support the campaign:

Full statement from the Excell Family

General Secretary of UKAFHA writing in the Guardian

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