Remarks on F/Sgt John Thompson's ring handover ceremony

There are some moments when you feel you can really reach out and touch the history. I think today is one of those moments.

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

Nicholas  Cannon  OBE

Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words at this moving event. I would like to thank the Albanian, American and British colleagues and friends whose efforts and careful research have made this possible. They have managed to solve a historical mystery over seventy years old and bring it to the conclusion we see today. Most of all, I would like to thank Mrs Dorothy Webster for travelling right across Europe at the age of 93 to be with us today. I know they have some pretty tough people in her part of the country, but even for Derbyshire this is pretty exceptional.

I think the story of Flight Sergeant Thompson’s ring moves us all because it shows how the big events of history affect the lives and emotions of individuals and families. It tells us of young men giving their lives to keep their country free. It shows us British and Albanian soldiers fighting side by side against tyranny and oppression, in a war for survival on a European scale. In the same way, Albanian and British soldiers have recently fought side by side in Afghanistan against violent extremism, as part of our great North Atlantic Alliance. It reminds us of the sacrifices that people have to make in the cause of freedom. It is a very British story, of the lasting impact of war on a family in a small town, of our pride in standing up against dictatorship. But it also a very Albanian story, of the deep roots of Albanian culture, and the idea of promises and honour passed down from father to son.

But also this is a human story about how we experience our lives. It is a story of love, of loss, of grief, of memory and of family loyalty. We see the events of seventy years ago playing out down the generations. We see a sister who spent a long, busy and happy life, but never forgot her lost brother. A family who passed down the generations the memory of a man they never had the chance to meet. A story of a man in a quiet corner of Albania who never forgot his father’s wishes, and became the person his father wanted him to be.

We talk a lot about history and what it means, watch films about it, read books about it. But there are some moments when you feel you can really reach out and touch it. I think today is one of those moments. I am really pleased and proud to be here.

Published 13 March 2015
Last updated 17 March 2015 + show all updates
  1. Added translation
  2. First published.