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VC & GC Memorial - see below this section for Memorials which include more than one GC holder.

Remember Their Valour and Gallantry

The Dedication of the Victoria Cross & George Cross Memorial in Westminster Abbey

by John Mulholland

On the 14th May 2003, HM The Queen paid special tribute, on behalf of the nation, to recipients of the VC and GC when she unveiled the first national memorial at Westminster Abbey. Although there are many memorials to individuals and groups of VC and GC holders, until now there had been no national memorial to honour them collectively. The Queen was accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and the service was attended by over 1,600 guests including 11 of the surviving 15 VC holders and 23 of the surviving 29 GC holders. The recipients attending the service travelled from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Malaysia, South Africa and the USA. Outside the Great West Door there was a tri-service guard of honour and inside an array of flags of nations representing recipients of the VC and GC.

The service began at 11.00 am with 'Fanfare for a Ceremonial Occasion' played by the Fanfare Trumpeters of HM Royal Marines. During the opening hymn, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took their places. The bidding was made by the Dean, The Very Revd Dr Wesley Carr, followed by prayers and the first reading from Romans 12:1-9 by Lt Cdr Ian Fraser VC DSC RD*, Vice Chairman of the VC and GC Association. The Choir then sang Psalm 67. The next reading from 'The History of the Peloponnesian War' by Thucydides (circa 400 BC) was an inspired choice. It was read by Col Stuart Archer GC OBE ERD**, Chairman of the VC and GC Association. The passage from Pericles' 'Oration over the Athenian Dead', included the lines: "No, they joyfully determined to accept the risk. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger face to face, and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory."

Her Majesty the Queen

Col Archer then invited the Queen to unveil the Memorial which had been placed on a specially designed stand and covered with the Union Flag. After the unveiling the Queen said: "Mr Dean, to remember the valour and gallantry of all holders, living and departed, of the Victoria Cross and George Cross, I ask you to receive this memorial into the custody of the Dean and Chapter, and invite you to dedicate it." Following the dedication the congregation stood for the stirring Antiphon which was specially commissioned for the service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, then delivered a sermon and argued that bravery was not simply a wild disregard for danger. "The conduct of war relies on many kinds of bravery... and often behaviour in war or in crisis is so mixed that it is hard to tease out real virtue from the courage of temperament or madness", the Archbishop said. But there was more to bravery than heroic insanity. "Courage of heart and mind comes not just from patriotism, but from conviction that a country is committed to justice and freedom; not just from obedience to orders or to some abstract duty, but from a sense of the human worthwhileness of comrades and colleagues and, simply, other human beings." The Archbishop concluded that the type of courage displayed by the recipients of the VC and GC was of a selfless nature: "Courage as a true virtue is the kind of courage that reflects the bravery of Christ, courage that does not deny the reality of fear but is moved and energised by a vision," he said. "It is always courage that is exercised in one way or another for the sake of others, to make something possible for others, not for personal gain or glory."

Lt Cdr John Bridge

The newly dedicated memorial was then carried by a Soldier, a Sailor, an Airman and a Policeman to its site close to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The party was preceded by the flags of the representative nations and four holders of the George Cross: Mr Anthony Gledhill, Mr Derek Kinne, Mr Alfred Lowe and Mr Michael Pratt. Four holders of the VC immediately followed the memorial: Flt Lt John Cruickshank, Lt Cdr Ian Fraser, Capt Rambahadur Limbu and Keith Payne. At the rear were the Verger, the High Commissioner for Malta GC, the Dean's Verger and the Dean. Whilst this procession slowly moved down the nave, the choir sang an anthem from 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan. The congregation stood and faced west for the Act of Remembrance and the notes of the 'Last Post' resounded around the Abbey.

The High Commissioner for Malta GC gave the exhortation to which the congregation replied "We will remember them". During the silence the stone was placed on a stand close to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, near the Great West Door. After a faultless 'Reveille', the procession returned to the Quire and Sacarium whilst the congregation sang 'He who would valiant be'. The closing hymn was 'Now thank we all our God', followed by the blessing and the National Anthem.

The Memorial

To anyone present it was clear that much thought and preparation had been given to the Service and everything appeared to go to plan. Those in the congregation had the benefit of video screens to view the proceedings. Each member of the congregation received an Order of Service and a memorial booklet which listed all recipients of the VC and GC and a list of donors. At the end of the service most of the congregation filed past the memorial and left by the Great West Door.

The memorial ledger is engraved in nabresina stone, with enlarged bronze and silver crosses, inlaid with enamel ribbons. Beneath is the simple inscription: 'Remember Their Valour and Gallantry'.

The Guardian of 15th May 2003 reported the evaluation of one VC holder and one GC holder. Flt Lt John Cruickshank VC, said of the memorial: "It is magnificent, but it could have been done before now." But Mr Alfred Lowe GC said, "I think the reason there's been no memorial before is because the majority of us would not have initiated it ourselves. We're rather reticent". An Australian newspaper recorded the comment of Mr Keith Payne VC, a Vietnam veteran who said: "It's a little overdue but it's an appropriate time with the world situation so uncertain at the moment".

The VC holders present were:

Capt Richard Annand
Flt Lt John Cruickshank
Lt Cdr Ian Fraser
Havildar Lachhiman Gurung
Capt Rambahadur Limbu
Mr Keith Payne
Sub Major Umrao Singh
Mr Ernest Smith
Mr William Speakman-Pitt
Rt Hon Sir Tasker Watkins
Lt Col Eric Wilson

The GC holders present were:

Col Stuart Archer
Mr John Bamford
Mr James Beaton
Lt Cdr John Bridge
Col Dick Butson
Mr Harry Errington
Mr Kenneth Farrow
Mr Henry Flintoff
Mr Anthony Gledhill
Mr John Gregson
Mr Derek Kinne
Mr Alfred Lowe
Mr Joseph Lynch
Mr Michael Pratt
Mrs Margaret Purves
Mr Awang anak Rawang
Mr Geoffrey Riley
Mr Henry Stevens
Lt Col George Styles
Mr Carl Walker
Mr Eric Walton
Mr Charles Wilcox

The Island of Malta GC and the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC were represented at the Service by the Honourable Dr Lawrence Gonzi, Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr Jim McDonald, Chairman of the RUC GC Foundation.

The two booklets produced for the occasion:

Book cover - Click to view a larger picture. Book cover - Click to view a larger picture.

A Memorial Guide is available which can be ordered from the VC & GC Association, Horse Guards, Whitehall, London SW1A 2AX.

A selection of contempory newspaper articles:

Book cover - Click to view a larger picture. Newspaper article - Click to view a larger picture. Newspaper article - Click to view a larger picture. Newspaper article - Click to view a larger picture. Newspaper article - Click to view a larger picture.