“We honour those who serve” is the proud, yet humble, motto of Royal Wootton Bassett, commemorating the four years during which they turned out on 167 occasions to mark the Repatriation of the bodies of 345 service men and women. That was no comment on politics, nor on the nature or value of the wars. It was quite simply a final tribute to those who took orders and gave their lives as a result.
Armed Forces Day on Saturday across the Nation tried to do the same for those who still serve. And Wiltshire was delighted by the announcement that next year’s Armed Forces Day will be held in Salisbury, at least partly as a tribute to those emergency service workers who so professionally sorted out the mess after the attempted murder of the Skripals.
I’ve seen real service twice recently in my own home. I called ‘999’ when I heard some shots near my house late one night. I felt a bit foolish when it turned out to be the local gamekeeper; but I was impressed by the speed and professionalism of the police who dealt with what could have been a serious terrorist or criminal threat. Then again, when a lady ‘took a funny turn’ in my garden last Sunday, the Ambulance crew and paramedics did a brilliant job of assessing her; looking after her, and in the end concluding that it was just a little too much sun. What a great job they did.
They are truly heroes. But so are the decent folk who volunteer in our society in perhaps less hazardous, but equally altruistic ways. Volunteers – those who work in charities, organisations, committees, local government, guides and scouts, the local amateur dramatics, the church, and in so many other ways. These people are truly the lifeblood of a community like ours in North Wiltshire.
So too are those who lend a hand to others without any kind of request – or thanks. The tens of thousands of voluntary carers across our land, those who just help an old lady across the road, or give a hand home with her shopping.
But it’s not just about the military and the emergency services. We are so fortunate in a wide variety of public servants. The nice gents who run the Recycling Centre near Junction 17 were incredibly helpful and kind to my wife when she turned up recently with an embarrassingly large number of empty bottles. Philippa tried to tip them for their help, which they strongly refused. They are truly there to serve.
When I was first selected to stand and then elected as the MP for North Wiltshire, I remember getting a letter from David Eccles, who was MP here from 1942-1962. Leaving to one side all of his many great distinctions (including a Viscountcy in honour of them) this modest man summed up his career thus: “I tried my best to serve the people of North Wiltshire.” What greater epitaph could there be?
So let us honour (and thank) those who serve. In every walk of life.