Published in the Daily Express on 06 June 2020.
My passion for bravery has spanned well over half a century and yet, even now, certain quotations associated with courage still stir my blood.
A man called Thucydides was one of the first Greek historians as well as being a skilled military general. In the fifth century BC, he wrote: “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
In a similar vein, Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa, once said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
These two quotations, which I have long cherished, help explain why I instinctively have such a deep-rooted admiration and respect for our emergency service workers.
At present, they climb out of their beds each morning knowing that their job will put them in real, tangible danger from coronavirus. It’s not impossible that, if they contract Covid-19, it could cost them their life.
Yet, they rise to the challenge and, day in and day out, they step up to the plate. It is therefore vital that that the outstanding bravery and devotion to duty of our emergency service workers are recognised in an appropriate and enduring way.
In particular, those who have died in the course of carrying out their dangerous work are genuine heroes – and they deserve to be treated as such.
This is why I am so supportive of the campaign, spearheaded by the Daily Express, for a national monument to be constructed in memory of our fallen 999 workers. The £3.2 million memorial will honour their self-sacrifice.
Today I am delighted to reveal that I have made a significant donation towards the cost of the memorial and I hope that it will encourage others who feel as passionately as I do to make a gift, if their circumstances permit.
Senior politicians from all parties, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and senior members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, have given their public support for this monument – and rightly so.
Indeed, the Queen has indicated that she intends to unveil the monument designed by sculptor Philip Jackson. A 20-feet high bronze memorial is due to be “opened” in 2023 at a central London site, yet to be determined.
I have long known of Mr Jackson’s artistic skills: he also designed the Bomber Command Memorial in Hyde Park, depicting a seven-strong aircrew returning from a Second World War mission.
Just as we rightly remember our war dead and our decorated heroes with appropriate memorials, we should also posthumously honour our emergency service workers with equal amounts of gratitude and respect.
The National Emergency Services Memorial, which was being planned before the coronavirus pandemic, will now honour more than 180 NHS staff who have died from Covid-19. Sadly, that total is certain to rise over the months ahead. In all, more than 7,000 emergency workers have died in the line of duty over the past 250 years.
I believe that at some point it may also be appropriate for the Queen and her Government to honour the NHS with a collective George Cross for only the third time in the 80-year history of the decoration (Malta and the Royal Ulster Constabulary were the other collective recipients). Other dutiful individuals can and will be recognised in the Queen’s Honours Lists.
Another quotation relating to bravery that I like to recall comes from Sir John “Jackie” Smyth, who was the founder and first Chairman of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
Sir Jackie, who was himself awarded the VC and Military Cross (MC) for gallantry during the Great War, said that he felt courage was expendable: “Most people only have a limited amount of it – and if the pitcher is taken too often to the well, then the well will run dry.”
There is no doubt in my mind that, to use Sir Jackie’s analogy, far too many of our hard-pressed emergency service workers have been asked to go to the “well” too frequently.
Furthermore, going to the “well” too often has cost some of them their lives. It is these brave men and women that we will never forget, thanks to the splendid memorial that is now being planned in their memory.
For more information, visit:LordAshcroftOnBravery.com