On Sunday I attended the annual firefighters memorial
service in London which is always a moving occasion. We have
had a national firefighters memorial just by St Pauls Cathedral
(it's worth a look for visitors to London) for a number of years,
but it was the events of 9/11 that stimulated a coming together of
firefighters to reflect, remember and honour "fallen colleagues"
- including those overseas - and make this an annual
event. There really is a strong bond and relationship between
firefighters that transcends even international boundaries. I
did personally know some of the firefighters killed at 9/11 for
It was a real honour this year to be asked to do a reading at
the church service, and it was a real privilege and pretty
moving to be there to see a wreath laying ceremony - including one
laid on behalf of a former GMFRS firefighter - Graham Hughes.
There is always the opportunity for families of any firefighters
who have lost their lives in the preceeding year also to lay
wreaths, and this really is a time when even the most hardened of
people need to choke back tears. This year - tragically - the
families of the firefighters who lost their lives in Hampshire were
It's always a really poignant reminder of the fact that whilst
we do fantastic work in reducing fires and whilst we will always do
our best in terms of health and safety - being a
firefighter has always had an element of risk and danger
- and really despite everything we can do -
always will have.
I must thank our colleagues who attended with me - our "Standard
Bearers" go along to these events time after time and represent us
superbly well (I won't embarrass them by naming here) but I can
assure everyone that all those who attended were real ambassadors
for all of us.
I am not one for hanging on to "tradition" for the sake of
it. But, by the same token these occasions always also remind
me that there is real value and important in ceremonies and
occasions for organisations like ours to come together in a public
setting to "honour" the work and bravery of people who are
prepared- and in some cases have - placed their lives on the line
for their community. This isn't just firefighters of course,
as we see too tragically almost every day with the military for
example. So as we rush to "modernise" and change things that
rightly should be changed - we should also be careful not to throw
"babies out with the bathwater."
It is also important, though, that these events are done well so
I would also like to thank and commend the work of the National
Firefighters Memorial Trust and the London Fire Brigade who
organise the event.