THEY are springing up across the country as Britain prepares to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Communities are honouring soldiers killed in the conflict by unveiling life-sized silhouettes of a British Tommy as part of a Royal British Legion campaign to commemorate the centenary.

But Brockenhurst Parish Council is refusing to take part in the Silent Soldier project - because the iconic image includes a gun.

One of the people who have taken to social media to condemn the decision said: "Absolutely pathetic that because the soldier has a rifle you don't want this as a sign of respect.

"If it wasn't for soldiers using them we would have lost the war."

Another social media user added: "Councillors should be ashamed of themselves. These men gave everything - the very least we can do is remember them."

But the council is vowing to honour fallen troops in other ways and says Brockenhurst Business Association will provide a Silent Soldier instead.

District councillor Maureen Holding, whose grandmother lost three brothers in the war, raised the issue at a meeting of the parish council.

She said: "I asked why we hadn't got any Silent Soldiers in the village and was told we were going to have poppies on lampposts instead.

"Apparently some people objected to the representation of a gun - but whoever heard of a Tommy without a gun?

"We're getting a lot of political correctness creeping in these days. No-one likes guns but soldiers need them to defend themselves - it's just common sense."

Parish councillor Harry Oram added: "One or two people didn't like the image of a rifle on the soldier's back. Perhaps on this occasion the council didn't represent the views of the community."

During the war several buildings in Brockenhurst were used as hospitals to treat thousands of wounded troops.

More than 90 New Zealand servicemen died of their injuries and are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at St Nicholas Church.

In a statement the council chairman, Peter Wales, said it discussed the best way to mark the centenary and decided to refurbish the village's war memorial.

He added that the council considered a Silent Soldier but preferred what he described as the "more traditional" option of putting poppies on lampposts.

A Royal British Legion spokesman was unavailable for comment.