May 21, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Updates
Now you may ask why I would start a We Are Cunard blog with a quote from Sir Winston Churchill. Well earlier this week I attended an event at The Savoy in London which turned out to be rather special. It was a grand occasion in the beautifully renovated Savoy – hosted by The Daily Telegraph to announce the winners of the Daily Telegraph Ultra Travel Awards – where readers vote for their best holiday experiences. More of that later – as they are not the point of the story. We probably have too many of these sort of awards and as I walked up The Strand that morning, I felt a little guilty for attending an awards lunch rather than being at my desk. But as I walked back down The Strand that afternoon I felt great – I had experienced something very special indeed.
The special bit came from the fact that the awards this year were also to recognise ‘Help for Heroes’. This is a British Charity that was set up by a chap called Bryn Parry and his wife in 2007. They set it up after visiting some injured British soldiers and,having been in the army himself, Bryn felt he should give something back. Remarkably, since 2007, Bryn through ‘Help for Heroes’ has raised over £97 million pounds. Not happy with that – as he addressed us over lunch in a modest and humbling speech – he is on a mission to raise a further £45 million.
Here is Bryn telling us of his vision and it was hard not to feel a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved – if you would like to learn more then have a look at www.helpforheroes.org.uk
Back to the story. So the plan was that each section of the travel awards would be presented by true British Heroes. The first chap to be introduced was a young 97 year old chap by the name of William Walker. Now William is the oldest living Spitfire Pilot from WW2 and known as ‘The oldest of the few…’ up he came to the stage to a wonderful reception. But clearly at 97 he still has a sparkle is in his eye – rather than acknowledging the audience, he had his eye on the very presentable TV News Presenter Katie Derham. He made a bee-line for Katie and planted a kiss on her cheek – marvellous.
It came towards the end of the awards, and the last three presenters were called up onto the stage. First was Warrant Officer Kim Hughes. Kim was awarded the George Cross for outstanding bravery as a bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan. Alongside Kim was Staff Sergeant Karl Ley, also awarded the George Cross. Remarkably Karl disarmed 139 bombs whilst in Afghanistan – more than any other soldier. But as they came up to the stage we were told that in his modesty, Karl preferred to speak of another colleague and friend Olaf Schmid. He had said that Olaf was a far better bomb disposal expert than either Karl or Kim would ever be. Tragically, Olaf Schmid lost his life whilst on duty in Afghanistan and had been awarded the George Cross posthumously – to represent him up onto the stage came his wife Christina Schmid.
Well it is hard to describe the reaction and emotion to these three people coming up onto the stage. In an instant the 500 guests stood up to very warm applause. But the applause did not stop – it went on for a very long time. We have all read about the bravery of our soldiers, and we have all read of tragic injuries and loss of life, But never had I, or most people in the room, been in the presence of Karl, Kim and Christina – or the other many representatives of ‘Help for Heroes’. These are very special people, very modest, humble and down to earth people – and it was very humbling to be in their presence.
They gave out their awards, the lunch came to its conclusion and I am sure that all those present left The Savoy all the better for having met and been in the presence of such special people – not least Bryn Parry for what he has achieved through ‘Help for Heroes’ – good for him.
So as I conclude – I come back to why is this story relevant to Cunard Line. Well after the applause had died down, Kim, Karl and Christina gave out their first award on behalf of Daily Telegraph Readers, it was for ‘Best Cruise Line’ The award went to Cunard Line – for the fifth year running. Now – proud as I am of all things Cunard, and the many wonderful people who work on our ships, I have to be honest and say that as I went up to collect the award and meet Kim, Karl and Christina – I could not think of anything Cunard, all I could think of was these three incredible people, their achievements, their pride and how humbling it was to meet them.
I have since written to each of our three ships to congratulate them on their award. I hope you enjoyed hearing of a very special day at The Savoy in London and that you can at least take away a sense of the pride we have in Britain for our Armed Forces, as Churchill said – ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few…’
President and Managing Director