National Memorial Arboretum: commemorating Victoria Cross recipients

Eric Pickles' speech commemorating the Victoria Cross recipients of the First World War who were born overseas.

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

The Rt Hon Lord Pickles

Thank you for making this journey to the National Memorial Arboretum.

We are here to honour extraordinary acts of heroism.

In recent months there have been many events and memorials to mark the centenary of the First World War.

From dignified religious services to the wonderfully moving sea of poppies at the Tower of London, the nation has found ways to remember the sacrifice of a generation, which endured a conflict that would define the last century.

As part of the commemorations, we will lay a paving stone for every winner of the Victoria Cross close to the anniversary of the award.

Some will be laid near war memorials, but for the most part they will be laid in the street close to the VC’s home. The choice of a paving stone was deliberate.

We wanted to show that out of ordinary streets and ordinary lives can come extraordinary people.

The first paving stone was unveiled in August last year and will continue until November 2018. Ceremonies great and small throughout the UK remembering extraordinary people.

Today, we are honouring the 145 men who received the Victoria Cross who came from all over the world to defend liberty and freedom.

Most are remembered with great pride in their own country – roads, schools, hospitals are named after them. But we want to remember them here, as a small act of gratitude for standing shoulder to with our grandparents or our great grandparents.

They help built the foundations for modern Britain.

Their legacy is our legacy:

  • a country which respects different faiths
  • where people from different backgrounds can live together in peace
  • where liberty is cherished
  • where our different and shared values unite us

We decided to lay the stones together in one ceremony today to symbolise the many miles travelled, over many pavements to defend this country.

And to symbolise the difficult path the world would have to tread to find peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

But, above all to remind us that bravery knows no national boundary. That in any place on the globe, out of ordinary streets and ordinary lives can come truly extraordinary people.

Published 5 March 2015