Banbury town crier Anthony Church exposed for wearing war medals that weren’t his

Anthony Church
Anthony Church

Shamed town crier Anthony Church has been told he is ‘no longer associated with Banbury or Banbury Town council’ in a strongly-worded statement released today, Tuesday.

Banbury Town Council made it clear it had cut all links with Mr Church after he quit his role when admitting wrongly wearing military medals and lying about serving in the Coldstream Guards.

The statement said: “Anthony Church was a freelance town crier and was used as such by several towns including Banbury. He was not directly employed by Banbury Town Council, but was engaged in good faith to act as town crier when occasions demanded it.

He is no longer associated with Banbury or Banbury Town Council.”

Kieron Mallon, leader of Banbury Town Council, added: “The council, as soon as it became aware of the situation, removed any mention of Mr Church from its website.”

Mr Church has apologised for a ‘grave error of judgement’ after being exposed on Facebook by a group calling themselves the Walter Mitty Hunters Club.

He has now resigned from the Loyal Company of Town Criers and the Ancient and Honorable Guild of Town Criers.

John Robinson, secretary of The Loyal Company of Town Criers, said: “We are shocked. We were contacted a month ago when we received a complaint that he had been seen wearing military medals so we investigated it and he said it was a one-off and a geniune mistake. He apologised profusely and we thought that was the end of it.

“But when we heard on Sunday what had happened we were trying to get our heads around it. It is the fact he said he got the BEM (British Empire Medal) and Imperial Service Medal (ISM) as well but why on earth did he say he was awarded them?

“It is dreadful and I want to feel sorry for him but I can’t. He was a good friend of mine but I cannot believe he has been so stupid. We have more than 80 members and some of our town criers have military backgrounds themselves. Can you imagine how they feel?

“The work he has done has been fantastic for the towns, but it is been blown away by these lies.”

Mr Church is accused of falsely using medals including the British Empire Medal, the South Atlantic Medal and General Service Medal with Northern Ireland clasp.

The 62-year-old – who over the past 12 years has also worked as a town crier in Oxford, Thame, Chipping Norton and Wallingford – does not have a military background.

It is reported he also admitted once lying to Jim Lewendon, the county chairman of the Royal British Legion, telling him that he had served in the Coldstream Guards.

While the Royal British Legion said medals awarded to a deceased service/ex-service person may be worn on the right breast by a near relative, Mr Church wore the medals he acquired on the left.

He also used the title BEM after his name on Banbury Town Council’s website and said the medal was awarded to his father Jack Church, who was in the RAF, for taking part in the Berlin Airlift.

Chris Smithson, chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Banbury branch, said: “It is very sad that such a popular figure has tarnished the name of war veterans.”

In a statement released to the media, Mr Church said: “I was told several years ago that as the sole-surviving son I was entitled to wear the BEM and put BEM after my name.

“I also wanted, with the anniversary of the Falklands and World War One, to show my solidarity for those people who had served in these campaigns and found a place I could purchase replica medals and purchased a South Atlantic Medal.

“In September I contacted Buckingham Palace on an unrelated matter and received a letter back asking when I had been awarded the BEM. I wrote back explaining the situation and was told that I had been misinformed and was in fact not allowed to use the title or wear the medal as it would lead people to assume that I had been awarded the medal, so I immediately removed all medals.

“I realise now that I made a grave error of judgement with this.”

In 2012 Mr Church, of Cowley, grabbed a taste of glory for Banbury when he led Team GB athletes to the spectacular opening ceremony for the London Olympics.

Mr Church, who served as town crier from 2003, was one of three representatives of the Ancient & Honourable Guild of Town Criers who dressed in traditional liveries to help marshal athletes from 205 nations from the Olympic Village to the stadium in time for the Athletes’ Parade.

The former prison service employee spoke of his pride in representing Banbury as he walked at the front of Team GB.

He said: “It was one of those days I will always remember. I led quite a few different teams to the stadium but Team GB were the noisiest and most hyped up, they were cheering and screaming all the way to the stadium. I have to say I was proud to wear my coat with the Banbury badge on the back and help put Banbury on the map. A lot of the athletes wanted to get my photograph and they asked me about Banbury. I recited the famous nursery rhyme many times and explained the story about the cross to Japanese and Indian television stations and many others.”

Mr Church’s personal website – www.oyez-oyez-oyez.co.uk – today (Tuesday) has a message saying it is ‘currently under maintenance’ and will be ‘back shortly’.

On a Banbury Town Council website link that has now been removed, Mr Church described himself as the following: “I am a Fellow of the Loyal Company of Town Criers(FLCTC), a member of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers (MAHGTC) and a member of the European Contingent of Town Criers (ECTC).

“I am also a Fellow of the Britannic Guild of Toastmasters (FBGTM).

“I became a professional Toastmaster in 1995 whilst working for Oxford City Council and trained as a Butler for their Civic and Corporate events. I was trained under the watchful eye of Alan Myatt who is a professional Toastmaster and the Town Crier of Gloucester and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the worlds loudest Crier. It was Alan who got me into Town Crying when he could not fulfil a function in Oxford and asked me to stand in for him, he lent me a hat, a coat and a bell and away I went and the rest is now history.

“In 2003 I was appointed as the Official Town Crier for Banbury Town Council.

“I carry out corporate cries for Debenhams, Wilkinsons, The Bath Store, Specsavers, Oxford Antiques Market, The Co-operative Society and Thomas Cook.”