There was afternoon tea with a difference at St James’s Palace on Monday as Prince Charles invited some of the Commonwealth’s bravest war heroes to London for a bite to eat and a chat in palatial surroundings.
Among the guests were Afghanistan war veterans Ben Roberts-Smith, Corporal Daniel Keighran and Corporal Mark Donaldson, they were also joined by 20 other Victoria and George cross holder. The tea at St James’s Palace marked the beginning of three days worth of Royal events to honour servicemen and veterans who have received Britain and the Commonwealth’s highest award for military gallantry.
Corporal Keighran spoke of the event, “It is incredibly humbling to talk to these guys and hear their stories. To be a part of that group as well I don’t think I’ll get used to it. Every year there are fewer members, so it’s good to come together.” There are currently 30 VC and GC holders worldwide from conflicts that include the Second World War, Vietnam War and War in Afghanistan.
Prince Charles is President of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and has been since February 2003. The Association last met in May 2012 and Monday’s afternoon tea was held in the State Apartments at St James’s.
Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC was also at the celebration and commented, “I think the Prince has a great deal of knowledge about the military himself, as well as having both sons in the military. It’s great to see the interest he shows. The respect I have for Prince Harry, as a serving soldier and an officer, is amazing.”
The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria and is awarded “for most conspicuous bravery or some daring pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.” The Victoria Cross is awarded irrespective of rank to those serving in British and Commonwealth forces.
The George Cross was introduced by King George VI in September 1940, when the Blitz was at its strongest and most powerful. It is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”. The George Cross can be awarded posthumously.
Ben Roberts-Smith commented that the reunion at St James’s Palace was made that little bit more special because of their connection with Prince Charles, “It’s an amazing thing for a kid from Western Australia to end up sitting having a cup of tea with His Royal Highness.”
As previously mentioned these brave war heroes will have three days worth of Royal events to attend this week. On Wednesday they will be hosted by Prince Harry and on Thursday they will attend a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Her Majesty and Prince Philip.