Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the proud daughter of a highly decorated soldier I am honoured to be here today to review the parade at this very special event.
331 years ago this great institution was opened to be a home to old or disabled soldiers but surveying your resplendent scarlet ranks I can only see evidence of soldiers; and judging from your appearance I can see that the Royal Hospital continues to give you exceptional care and support in your retirement, and in return you give further service to this country.
I know that 111 of you fought in the Second World War, some perhaps alongside my father in North Africa…Many of you fought in other conflicts including Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Africa and the ‘youngsters’ amongst you wear the South Atlantic Medal with pride.
Before too long you will no doubt welcome those who recently served in the Gulf, and eventually in Afghanistan. Having just visited the infirmary and seen the excellent facilities and care being provided to those pensioners who are unable to be on parade today, and had an update on the ongoing refurbishment works, I am delighted that the future of the Royal Hospital is secure for those who are currently serving.
The fact that it provides this service, whilst generating such marvellous ‘esprit de corps’ is a great credit to its remarkable staff and - of course - to all of you. You have been very much in the public eye lately (even more so than usual!) at the Diamond Jubilee - the Olympics - and Baroness Thatcher’s funeral a few months ago.
Those of you who so magnificently lined the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral not only acted as a guard of honour to an old friend of this establishment, but also as a salutary reminder to the public, of the importance of service to one’s nation and the great and enduring importance of the Royal Hospital.
To you all who are on parade today, not forgetting those who are unable to be with us, I can only say that you are a constant reminder of the great debt we owe to those who have served this nation over the years – I salute you all and wish you health and happiness in this illustrious and historic hospital.