Prince Charles pays tribute to fallen officers in memorial day message

Gwent Police Federation chair Maria Henry paid tribute to officers who have died in the line of duty as the country paid its respects on National Police Memorial Day (NPMD).

Maria said the service yesterday was “particularly poignant” coming two days after Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matiu (Matt) Ratana was shot dead at a Croydon custody centre.

She said: “National Police Memorial Day is always a moving day, but this year’s was particularly poignant coming so soon after the death of Sgt Ratana.

“The service provides an opportunity for us to come together as a police family, and as a country, to pay our respects to those who have given their lives to keep us safe.

“We owe them all a huge debt.”

Gwent Police was represented by the family of PC Terry Davies, who died in 1990, aged 34. His daughter, Rebecca, lit a candle in memory of fallen officers in Wales as part of the commemorations.

And Jayne and Lowri Davies, his widow and daughter, were among the speakers from the four nations of the UK. They recalled attending the inaugural NPMD, not knowing what to expect but finding it a “wonderful day” and a source of comfort. Lowri is now a serving officer with Gwent Police and wears her father’s collar number.

This year’s service had been due to take place at Lincoln Cathedral, but was held online because of coronavirus restrictions.

The annual event commemorates and honours the lives and service of police officers killed in the line of duty, and this year the tributes were led by HRH The Prince of Wales, patron of the NPMD charity.

Prince Charles made an address ahead of the online service, and said: “I particularly wish to remember those officers who have so tragically lost their lives since we met in Glasgow last year. 

"The dreadful incident in Croydon on Friday is the latest heart-breaking evidence of the risks faced by our officers daily. I would like to send my deepest sympathy to the families of each of these officers who have given their lives.”

The Reverend Canon David Wilbraham, the National Police Chaplain and co-ordinator for NPMD, led the online service.

He said: “The Trustees of National Police Memorial Day would not let this day pass without finding a solution to honour loved ones, friends and colleagues lost in service.

“Today is so important to the many who make the annual journey to join to support each other and commemorate those who gave us their all. Not being able to meet physically leaves a void, especially for those whose pain is lifelong. I am immensely proud that we pulled together to try to fill that void with our online service and I thank the families who contributed.

“This is an honourable day and a poignant reminder of the dangerous nature of policing. We stand in virtual solidarity to pay our respects.”

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, gave a reading of The Beatitudes and expressed her personal gratitude to police officers and staff for their “selfless work”, adding that those courageous officers who made the ultimate sacrifice would “never be forgotten”.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, sent a video expressing his support and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, gave a blessing.

John Apter, national Federation chair, said: “Policing comes with a huge amount of risk and this is at the forefront of our minds, even more so following the devastating news on Friday when our colleague in the Metropolitan Police was killed.

“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.”

The British Police Symphony Orchestra played ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’, with more than 60 musicians who recorded their contributions while in isolation from homes across the UK.

Other speakers from the four corners of the included Louie Johnston, son of Reserve Constable David Johnston of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross, who was taken in 1997, aged 30. Louie also lit a candle for officers from Northern Ireland.

He said the memorial day was 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”.

Rumbie Mabuto, 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.

She said: “We’re grateful for the support we receive and hope everybody will be able to meet again next year.”

Donna Alcock, widow of PC John Alcock, of Grampian Police, injured in 2003 and who 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, and Scotland’s candle was lit by its Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone QPM.

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.

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. 

Sunday’s service can be viewed at: www.nationalpolicememorialday.org

Next year’s service is scheduled for Sunday 26September at Lincoln Cathedral.