Speech

Ambassador Brenton at Zeebrugge First World War commemoration in Belgium

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

HMA Jonathan Brenton attended the commemoration of the Raid on Zeebrugge on Saint George's day during the First World War.

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As British Ambassador, let me say a few words of thanks.

This is the fourth time that I have taken part in the Commemorations for the St Georges Day Raid at Zeebrugge. It’s an honour to be here. And it’s special for me to today to be with the German Ambassador, my friend Eckart Cuntz, who is here for the first time.

I should reinforce what the German Ambassador has just said how important it is that we commemorate the First World War together.

That in remembering the valour and sacrifices of the past – and as we stood in a cemetery where both British and German serviceman are buried, we remember the losses of both sides.

And we recognize that thanks to the sacrifices of the past we live in a different Europe. That Western Europe is now at peace. Germany is democratic and our friend.

I wanted to thank you for the strong support from the people of Zeebrugge, from the Mayor, from the port, from the schools – because it’s so important that we pass on history to the next generation. And a special thanks to the music of the band.

I welcome the presence of the authorities from Dover today. It’s a sign of the strong bonds between the two port cities – forged – as the memorial to the Herald of Free Enterprise next to the war graves reminds us - in difficult times as well as good ones.

I also salute the strong UK military presence; Lieutenant-General it’s good to see so many of the Royal Marines making their annual pilgrimage to Zeebrugge.

The efforts you all make on day like this are absolutely right.

It’s because of the extraordinary history that we are honouring – a history of courage and sacrifice, as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines sought in a near suicidal attack to block the German U-boats from their attacks on allied shipping in the First World War.

And in remembering the sacrifices made in the past, we remember those of the present.

Those of you who listened to the news will know that the UK lost 5 military personnel in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan. A country where some of the British military here today will have seen recent service.

Moments like these will not deter the UK – or its NATO allies like Belgium or Germany - from finishing the job in Afghanistan.

But they are a reminder that military sacrifices are not just a matter of history.

We honour those losses and our thoughts are with the families, friends and comrades of those died.

Finally on a personal note, I should mention that as this is my fourth time at the memorial, it is also my last time. My term as Ambassador ends in August. So I thanking you not just for this year’s commemoration but for four years of support.

And while I am sad to leave, I can assure that the commitment of the Embassy will continue and that we are already working to ensure that we do justice to the 100th anniversary in 2018.

Published 29 April 2014