A hotel that refused a wounded soldier a room, forcing him to spend the night in his car, was backed into a “grovelling” apology yesterday after receiving a barrage of abusive phone calls.
Metro Hotel, in Woking, Surrey, had to call in the police as their lines were flooded with angry, abusive and threatening calls from members of the public.
The attack on the switchboards came after it emerged that Corporal Tomos Stringer, 24, had been told by hotel staff that it was company policy not to accept members of the Armed Forces as guests.
A soldier since the age of 16 and veteran of multiple tours in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, Cpl Stringer had travelled to Surrey to help with funeral preparations for a friend killed in action.
Cpl Stringer, who was not in uniform, presented his army warrant card when asked by the hotel for proof of identity. After the receptionist refused him a room, he was left with no choice but to bed down in his tiny, two-door car, his wrist, broken during a convoy ambush, cased in plaster.
Cpl Stringer’s local MP, Hywel Williams, the Defence Minister, Derek Twigg, and Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces Minister, have all written letters to the hotel, and Army men and enthusiasts have swamped the forums of the unofficial British Army websiteÂ calling for a boycott.
Some have suggested booking the hotel en masse only to cancel at last minute. Others are encouraging their colleagues to post comments about the hotel on customer review websites.
One review site has already received half a dozen such comments. “As a serving member of the British Armed Forces, I’m disgusted to see that one of my colleagues was refused a room in Metro Hotel in Surrey . . . because their policy is to refuse all army personnel,” wrote one.
“Anyone considering using any services of this company should definitely not bother. I’m sure a more patriotic company can be found with far superior services.”
After a resolute silence, the hotel, owned by a company called American Amusements, finally a statement.
“The Metro Hotel, Woking, sincerely regrets any upset caused towards Corporal Stringer and his family,” it said. “The hotel management has always had an open door policy to all its visitors and guests, including members of the military and Armed Forces.”
The receptionist on duty at the time had made a mistake, the statement added.
A personal letter received by Mr Williams, MP for Caernarfon, went further, saying that the hotel had recently experienced “some rather serious incidents” involving soldiers from the nearby barracks.
Michael Chaussy, the manager of Metro Hotel, insisted that there was no blanket policy, but that it was “a decision for the manager to assess whether the hotel booking is to be accepted”.
“This process does not appear to have happened in this case,” he conceded.
Cpl Stringer, of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, has now returned to Afghanistan, but his mother, Gaynor Stringer, from Criccieth, North Wales, toldÂ The TimesÂ that she was still furious about the incident.
“I’m very, very angry. It’s discrimination. They would never get away with it if it was against someone of ethnic origin.”
She added: “In America, they treat soldiers as heroes. We went to Disney World with Tomos and the whole family was moved to the front of the lines. Everybody was standing up and clapping and cheering. Here, soldiers can’t even get a bed for the night.”