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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.

Photos: Steve Dunlop

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…’

Best Regards

Peter Shanks
President and Managing Director
Cunard Line

  1. Chris & Margaret Rose says:

    Hi Peter,
    Many congratulations on your award.
    However, your writing about “Help For Heroes” and indeed the real heroes who presented the awards,
    is very moving.
    Our UK forces throughout the world do a fantastic job and we at home can only marvel at their selfness in the face of adversity.
    Once again, many thanks for a great blog.

  2. tony mac says:

    Lets not forget all the guys and girls who went to war unarmed in the Merchant Navy on Tropships, hospatal ships Cargo and tankers ,Fishing boats and all the small ships, Cunard liners were lost and many more. Dont speak to me of heroes untill you;ve heard the taleof Britansmerchantseamen who sailedthrough storm and gale to keepour lifelinesopen in our hour of need. When a tyrant cast a shadow across our island breed,Captains,greasers cabinboys,mates and engineers,Heard the call to dutyand cast aside their fears,Thay stoked those hungry boilers and stood behind the wheel,While cooks and stewards maanned theguns on coffins made of steel,They moved in icy convoys fromScapa to Murmansk,and crossed the western ocean,neaver seaking thanks.Thaysailed theSouth Atlantic where raiders lay in waitand kept the food lines open from Malta to the Cape. more will be printed to morrow.

  3. Pam Towart says:

    Well, congrats to Cunard for the award! (The Help for Heroes organization sounds similar to a project near me in the U.S.: “Wounded Warriors”). I think it was a great idea to have the awards presentations done in that manner – ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ so to speak but achieving so much more than simply handing out trophies (albeit well-deserved ones). I’m sure all Cunard employees & your own family have enjoyed hearing about such a worthy & enriching event & all in the line of duty, so no guilt necessary….

  4. David says:

    Nice one Peter. Perhaps you could consider giving the heroes a free cruise. It would be a gesture to say thank you for ensuring that you and I appreciate the fact they give their lives in return for our freedom.

  5. William James Dundas says:


    Congratulations on this blog in which you rightly identify something more important than Cunard, and more important than the award it has received. This is a significant step towards the shift of tone that I suggested would be appropriate in a recent blog comment. Well done and congratulations on the award!

    Perhaps Cunard could contribute directly to the funding of Help for Heroes from the proceeds of a special cruise. It could be a cruise themed by the itinerary or by the guest speakers and on-board activities: or indeed both. Perhaps it could be a cruise calling at the Falkland Islands . If it were routed via New York, the Caribbean, the Falkland Islands, North Africa and western Europe it could be attractive to a broad clientelle and could be sold in segments. Could it perhaps be part of a World Cruise?

    This may be challenging in terms of commercial viability, but the suggestion is made in earnest.

  6. Daryl Cooper says:

    William James Dundas, I wish you well for the chance of a “special cruise” and I wish you well in the chance you may succeed.It is still interesting that the type of respondents that you were alluding to in your recent blog are STILL receiving precedence that is “anything about Cunard”. I hope you receive an answer for I am still waiting on questions posed when Alistair Greener was the “head blogger” together with questions posed to Peter Shanks as to when the Queen Elizabeth “Bridge Cam” would be brought into line with the other “Queens”. I must admit that he did suggest he would look into it but still no alteration to the very poor service. Similarly I have posed questions re altering co-inciding departures from S/Hampton for world voyages but I still wait.I suggest the “job” has become to difficult and perhaps should be handed over to Sarah in Southampton office who does answer questions.

  7. judith sayers says:

    Very nice blog Peter. Well done Cunard for the award. Keep up the good work.

  8. Beryl Moss says:

    A very interesting and moving blog and congratulations Cunard on yet another prestigious award. It is truly deserved as having just returned from a cruise on Queen Victoria can whole heartedly agree and am looking forward to our next voyage on Queen Elizabeth in August when I will be introducing my two teenage grand-daughters to the Cunard world

  9. Tony Ennew says:

    Pity about the word format of the Churchill quote at the end of this excellent blog which was correct at the beginning, unless for some reason it was intentionally put in reverse.

  10. Lisa (We Are Cunard) says:

    Thank you Tony – typo on my part.

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