HRH The Prince of Wales told this year’s virtual National Police Memorial Day (NPMD) that the UK’s police officers had faced the invisible threat of coronavirus with visible courage and commitment.
The service was due to be held at Lincoln Cathedral but ongoing coronavirus restrictions made that impossible. Instead, the families and colleagues of fallen officers were encouraged to join in from their homes and share images of a virtual candle. They were also able to write messages and share memories or thoughts on a Tribute Wall to remember and celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones.
Prince Charles, patron of NPMD, opened the ceremony and said: “We can’t meet as usual but we can all take a moment to honour those who have paid the ultimate price and who have given their lives in the service of others.
“We’ve faced an unseen and deadly threat this year but throughout all the uncertainty we have learned to value those things we can always be certain of, such as the steadfast dedication of our police forces in the UK.
“Officers have met this invisible threat with visible courage and commitment, providing calm reassurance that has been essential to our communities day and night.”
He paid special tribute to the seven officers who have lost their lives since the last NPMD and spoke of the shocking killing of 54-year-old London Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana two days before the memorial service – an incident which gave the event special poignancy.
“What happened on Friday is the latest heart-breaking evidence of the risks faced by our officers daily. These are losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay but of which, as a society, we can only strive to be worthy. We owe our police service and its remarkable officers the most profound debt of gratitude for their continued selfless commitment and dedication,” he added.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel, read The Beatitudes and expressed her gratitude to police officers and staff for their “selfless work”, adding that the courageous officers who made the ultimate sacrifice would “never be forgotten”.
In addition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent a message of support: “The terrible killing of an officer in Croydon on Friday is a reminder of the risks police officers face every day. They show extraordinary courage by going towards danger rather than away from it to protect the public. The officers we remember today laid down their lives to prevent us from coming to harm and for that we owe them a huge debt.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, gave a blessing and the British Police Symphony Orchestra played a moving rendition of ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’ as speakers from the four corners of the UK spoke about what Memorial Day means to them.
Louie Johnston, son of Reserve Constable David Johnston of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross, who died in 1997, aged 30, said NPMD is an occasion to “look past the uniform and to celebrate the character, the memories and the special place that our loved ones will always have in our hearts”.
Jayne and Lowri Davies, the widow and daughter of PC Terry Davies of Gwent Police, who died in 1990, aged 34, recalled attending the inaugural NPMD, not knowing what to expect but found it was source of comfort. Lowri is now a serving officer with Gwent Police and wears her father’s collar number.
Rumbie Mabuto, the widow of DC Joe Mabuto of Thames Valley Police, who died in 2016, aged 42, said the event is something her family looks forward to each year, adding: “We’re grateful for the support we receive and hope everybody will be able to meet again next year.”
And Donna Alcock, widow of PC John Alcock of Grampian Police, who was injured in 2003 and died in 2017, aged 54, said: “When they say police are a family there is no truer statement.”
The service also included a recorded message from Samantha Dixon whose husband, PC James Dixon of Thames Valley Police died in a road traffic accident on duty three years ago. She was pregnant with their son at the time.
“The Police Memorial Day is somewhere I can take our son, who sadly never got to meet his father, and he can be remembered in a proud way rather than with the sadness that is normally attached to it,” she said.
Candles were lit to represent the four nations of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and to symbolise the flame of devotion and commitment exemplified by those acknowledged by the service.
England was represented by Lissie Harper, widow of PC Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police, who died on 15 August 2019, aged 28. Lighting a candle for Wales wasRebecca Davies, daughter of PC Terry Davies of Gwent Police, who died on 23August 1990 aged 34, and for Northern Ireland, Louie Johnston. Scotland’s candle was lit by its Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone QPM.
South Wales Police Federation branch chair Steve Treharne, said: “We were determined to still pay tribute to fallen colleagues this year. Despite the restrictions placed upon us, I think this year’s service proved to be a fitting tribute to our fallen colleagues and showed their families that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, added: “National Police Memorial Day ensures that police officers who gave their all are never forgotten. We must always remember them - their commitment and ultimate sacrifice to public service. Every day, police officers selflessly put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others – I thank them, and I am proud to represent them.”
One of the last images of the service was a reminder of the Book of Remembrance which pays tribute to the almost 5,000 British police officers who have been killed or died on duty or as a result of duty since the first recorded death on duty of an officer in 1680.
The National Police Memorial Day was founded in 2004 by retired Kent police sergeant Joe Holness and is supported by the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Next year’s service is scheduled for Sunday 26 September at Lincoln Cathedral.