Was this the bravest VC of them all?

First published in The Sunday Telegraph on 14 November 2021.

In a quiet corner of Twickenham Cemetery, south-west London, beneath the outstretched branches of a gnarled cherry tree, there is a black marble tombstone. “Cherished memories of a dearly loved husband, father and grandfather,” reads the inscription.

However, it is two letters after the name of the individual that makes this grave so different from the others: “V.C.”, standing for Victoria Cross, Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious decoration for gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

This is the grave of Warrant Officer Norman Jackson VC; as someone with a lifelong interest in bravery, I am the privileged custodian of the Jackson medal group. It is part of my VC collection – more than 200 strong and the largest in the world – that is on public display in the Imperial War Museum, London.

Read more …

Saluting the bravest of the brave – the only combat soldier ever to be awarded two Victoria Crosses

First published in the New Zealand Herald on 14 November 2021.

Few military graveyards are set in a location as stunning as Suda Bay War Cemetery.

Situated below olive groves buzzing with cicadas and only a stone’s throw from the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, it commemorates more than 1500 fallen Commonwealth servicemen from World War II.

Walking through row upon row of white headstones on perfectly manicured lawns in northwest Crete, it is impossible not to feel deeply moved by quite how many young lives were lost 80 years ago during the battle for this picturesque Greek island.

Read more … 

Lord Ashcroft unveils his new bravery website on Armistice Day

A new website featuring Lord Ashcroft’s lifelong passion for bravery has gone “live” today – Armistice Day.

The site is packed with information on Lord Ashcroft’s media and publishing work over the past 15 years relating to gallantry.

The new site – www.lordashcroftonbravery.com – includes the following information: (more…)

The Falklands War padre tended men’s wounds, weapons and their souls

First published in the Daily Express on 11 November 2021.

HIS LIFE today, a retirement spent walking his wolfhound Arran over the hills of Exmoor, could hardly be more different from his role in the Falklands War. Yet 40 years ago next spring, David Cooper was under mortar, artillery and machine-gun fire in his role as padre of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, while tending wounded and dying soldiers.

Indeed, he showed such outstanding bravery under fire and proved such an inspiration to his “flock”, some of the toughest soldiers in the world, he was eventually recommended for the Military Cross. To the annoyance of comrades who had witnessed his courage, this was later downgraded to a Mention in Dispatches. (more…)

The tiny band of Marines who fought invading Argentines with such courage an enemy general wanted to shake all their hands

Serialisation in The Mail on Sunday, first published on 07 November 2021.

Moving book by LORD ASHCROFT to mark 40 years since the Falklands War honours all those who served so valiantly.

A 22-year-old Royal Marines officer on the remote southern Atlantic island of South Georgia received an uncompromising radio message from his superiors. ‘When asked to surrender, you are not to do so.’

Half an hour later, a second, apparently contradictory, order followed. ‘The OCRM [Officer Commanding Royal Marines] is not, repeat not, to take any action that would endanger life.’ (more…)

See the November issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.

The November issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Captain Harold Ackroyd VC, MC, MD, who was decorated for bravery during the First World War.

Ackroyd, who was born in Southport, Lancashire, was an unlikely hero in that he was bespectacled, had a stooped walk and served beyond the age of 40.

Yet, during his service with the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was twice put forward for the VC, with the first recommendation being downgraded to the Military Cross (MC) in 1916. (more…)

Hero of the Month, by Lord Ashcroft

First published in Britain At War in November 2021.

Captain Harold Ackroyd VC, MC, MD

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) has a tradition for producing some of the bravest and most selfless of men but few in the Corps’ prestigious history have matched the dedication of Captain Harold Ackroyd.

Despite being an unlikely war hero – he was bespectacled with thinning grey hair, a stooped walk and served beyond his 40th birthday – Ackroyd was on two separate occasions recommended for the Victoria Cross (VC) for his gallantry during the Great War. On the first occasion, however, the recommendation was downgraded.

Read more …

Living the Kiwi Dream?

This piece was first published in the New Zealand Herald.

Jacinda Ardern was an already familiar figure in Britain by the time she concluded the NZ-UK trade deal with Boris Johnson last week. It’s not often that a New Zealand Prime Minister becomes a global celebrity, but Ardern’s handling of the Covid pandemic put her at the forefront of international politics.

As a pollster, I wanted to find out how far the worldwide praise for Ardern is echoed at home – and as a former Deputy Chairman of the UK Conservatives during their long years in the wilderness, to understand what this means for the National Party opposition.

I found strong support for Ardern’s decision to lockdown “fast and hard”, and appreciation across the political spectrum for her ability to speak for and to the country in a crisis. But after sluggish vaccine rollout and signs that the world is returning to business as usual, an unmistakable feeling of frustration with the Government’s strategy had begun to set in.

The move away from a “zero Covid” policy is no doubt partly an acknowledgement of that growing weariness.

Even so, Ardern dominates the scene and remains far and away the country’s most popular political figure. National, meanwhile – like the Tories while they endured the glory years of Tony Blair – have appeared divided and demoralised.

Read more and download the full report …

The name’s Winter, Tom Winter: Meet the real-life war hero who inspired James Bond

First published in the Daily Express on 28 September 2021.

AS THE new 007 film, No Time To Die, is finally premiered, military historian Lord Ashcroft tells the story of the real-life war hero who inspired James Bond.

Even though there is no evidence Tom Winter liked his martini cocktails “shaken, not stirred”, the dashing Special Forces hero was a key real-life inspiration for Ian Fleming’s famous fictitious character. Winter was tall, dark, handsome and courageous – and he took part in some of the Allies’ most daring hit-and-run raids on enemy targets during the Second World War. Like James Bond, he had the knack of always emerging alive from the most dangerous of situations. (more…)

You will never fix the NHS by spraying it with cash like a crazed Formula 1 driver with a magnum of Moet

First published in The Mail on Sunday on 12 September 2021.

For millions of people on NHS waiting lists, the arrival of a letter from the hospital is a source of both excitement and dread. If they’re lucky, they’ll discover they have finally been offered a desperately needed consultation with a specialist or date for an operation. All too often, however, such communications bring disappointment, as patients are coolly informed that their appointment has been postponed yet again. (more…)

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