Morecambe army store boss shoots down critics over '˜disrespectful' display

An army surplus store owner who has come under fire for displaying water-pistol toting dummies in camouflage gear outside his Morecambe shop has said he will not be taking them down.

Friday, 2nd September 2016, 2:52 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd September 2016, 3:56 pm
The B-Army Surplus Store in Morecambe

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said he had received complaints from elderly residents in the town who are up in arms over the offensive nature of the display.

And Colonel Bob Stewart, former United Nations commander in Bosnia, said he was “appalled” by it, and that the shop should “desist forthwith”.

But Mark Shepherd, owner of the B-Army Surplus shop in Marine Road Central, remains defiant, and says many people support it.

He said: “The mannequins held water pistols or wooden guns and had masks on.

“The kids love it with the funny faces.

“Then the council rang me and said someone had complained so I took the guns and masks off, and that was it until yesterday when I got the call off the Daily Mail.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has said leave them up, and business is doing well.”

But concern has also been raised about the display and its location directly opposite Morecambe’s War Memorial statue.

Colonel Stewart said: “When I saw those three masked and armed dummies in the Daily Mail I was appalled. A shudder went right through me. They instantly reminded me of Provisional IRA gunmen from my time serving in Northern Ireland. Right now in the UK we have the additional threat posed by so-called Islamic terrorists – some of whom also dress like that too. I don’t blame the people of Morecambe, which I often visited as a boy, in voicing their disgust. The shop must desist forthwith.”

Mr Morris told The Daily Mail that the display was “totally disrespectful to our fallen.”

He said: “As a former small businessman trading for over 20 years I have never seen any advertising stunt of the likes of it.

“I have been inundated with constituents complaints about this display for the last few weeks and have repeatedly reported these concerns to the City Council. I hope now that common sense will prevail and the display be removed. With lots of armed forces memorial events coming up it is distasteful to have such a display in close proximity to the cenotaph.”

A spokesperson for the MP said Mr Morris had been referring the case to Lancaster City Council since July, following a steady stream of complaints from members of the public.

But Mr Shepherd said: “What if it had been a boutique with naked mannequins in, would that be offensive?”

Mr Shepherd, who moved in to the premises in June following three years at the Festival Market, said he would be leaving the display up.

A spokesperson for Lancaster City Council, said: “As soon as this was brought to our attention we spoke to the shop proprietor and asked him to remove the offending items from the display, which he agreed to do.

“Unfortunately it appears that they have reappeared and we will therefore be visiting the premises again and asking for these items to be removed.”

It is understood the “offending items” the city council are referring to are the guns and the masks.