updated 3/7/2008 3:37:16 PM ET 2008-03-07T20:37:16

Commanders of a British air base have advised personnel not to wear their uniforms in a nearby town because of verbal abuse from opponents of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defense confirmed Friday that personnel at the Wittering air base, 90 miles north of London, were advised in April to wear civilian clothes when they are in the city of Peterborough.

Cambridgeshire Police said they had no information about any incidents of Royal Air Force personnel being abused in Peterborough.

The ministry said incidents in Peterborough have not gone beyond verbal abuse, and the advice against wearing uniforms has only been given at the Wittering base.

"There is nothing to suggest that abuse is coming from any particular community in Peterborough," said a Ministry of Defense press officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

"It's random pockets of people."

RAF Wittering is the logistics hub for British air operations worldwide, and is a base for 2,500 personnel.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told reporters he was dismayed by the situation.

"All our armed forces should be able to, and encouraged to, wear their uniform in public and have the respect and gratitude of the British people for the huge commitment to public service they show," Brown told reporters Friday morning.

"I encourage the local police to back up our armed forces so that not only can our armed forces wear their uniforms in public, but they should have the gratitude of the British public for the work they do."

The Ministry of Defense spokesman said military personnel generally do not wear uniforms off base — for example, when going into town for entertainment.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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