This Friday at 3pm I’ll be joining millions of people across the UK and world in raising a glass to toast the heroes of World War 2, as we mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
At the forefront of my mind of course will be the incredible Colonel Tom Moore, a man who continues to serve his country at the tender age of 100, and one who later this month will become our ‘youngest freeman’ when he receives the Freedom of the City of London by video link in recognition of his outstanding charitable work for the NHS.
We can all take inspiration from Colonel Tom and the work of the armed forces at these testing times.
The City of London Corporation has long and historic ties with the forces. Across the capital as a whole there are some 216 regular and reserve units, and more than 100 cadet units. The City has links with some of the oldest of these, including the Honourable Artillery Company dating from 1087, and the Coldstream Guards, first raised in 1659. We are also affiliated with some of the newest units in the armed forces, including HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s largest ever vessel.
Right now, the Armed Forces are playing a crucial role in the battle against COVID-19, helping out with testing, delivery of PPE and other vital tasks. I was also delighted to hear that the 256 City of London Field Hospital unit played a key part in building the NHS Nightingale hospital in the Excel conference centre, leveraging their expertise in creating field hospitals in crisis zones to help those most in need in this country.
Let’s also not forget about the dedication of our City reservists, hundreds of whom are at present working tirelessly on the front line in the face of the virus. These are people give up their spare time to the Forces, balancing civilian life with a military career, to ensure that they will be ready to serve if called upon. This is something that I and the City Corporation wholeheartedly supports, and I know firms across the Square Mile have made great strides in supporting reservists over recent years.
Every year we proudly fly the Armed Forces Day flag at Guildhall and we will be looking to do this once again next month – if and when the current lockdown is eased – to honour the brave men and women who serve our country at home and abroad.
25 years ago the 50th anniversary of VE Day was marked by a Lancaster bomber dropping poppies in front of Buckingham Palace. This year celebrations will be different, but I have no doubt that they will be just as impactful. So whatever you are doing, please do remember to pay tribute to those who fought in World War 2, and those who continue to battle for us in these difficult times. To those who gave so much, and to those who continue to give, we thank you.