We owe all of you all those who have served in the Armed Forces an endless debt of gratitude, thank you for everything you mean to us.

Well ladies and gentlemen, I hope you appreciate just how proud I feel to have been able to present this award this evening.

One of the great things about an evening like this is it does provide an opportunity once a year to remind people of the extraordinary contribution made by our Armed Forces in all sorts of different parts of the world. And when you think what they are doing at any one time it is truly remarkable just think for instance this year how at short notice what some twenty thousand service personnel found themselves supporting the Olympics and they did the most fantastic job.

There they were in uniform able to remind people of how important our Armed Forces are. And of course the unending relentless courage of our Armed Forces is on display day after day in Afghanistan. And they have I think the most extraordinary resilience, patience, determination despite the horrors of being turned upon from time to time by the people they’re training and mentoring and the fact that they continue and go on despite these setbacks and these tragedies to their own mates is an example it seems to me of the remarkable teamwork which is really what the Armed Forces is all about. And our Armed Forces set us I think a truly extraordinary example and many of them go on to encourage and enthuse young people through cadet units for instance all over the country. 

And I know that through my regiments that I come across and talk to all the time that the discomfort in Afghanistan for instance is unbelievable, when you think what they’re having to endure when bottled water for instance becomes too hot to touch by ten o’clock in the morning. And their Jakal armoured vehicles become unbelievable uncomfortable very quickly during the mid-day heat they’re patrolling frequently with sixty kilograms of equipment on their back, and some patrol bases are frequently under small arms fire attack for eight hours at a time. But despite all this and despite the hardships of the vicious insurgent attacks our troops just keep on bouncing back in some unbelievable way. And when you think also ladies and gentlemen about the utterly relentless courage of those who volunteer to work with mine detecting equipment and those who are diffusing these IEDs on a regular basis very often on their stomachs crawling about dealing with one IED after another then those people I think deserve our thoughts and continual congratulations and appreciation because that takes something really very very special.

Now as some of you probably know I have two sons serving in the Armed Forces and my younger one is at this moment in Afghanistan fortunately he rings me every now and again and from time to time I’ve even managed to persuade him to write me a letter because I keep saying if you write me a letter and not just, an email or a text or something in thirty years’ time or forty years’ time that will be very interesting history. I keep telling some of the younger soldiers in my regiments it would be a good idea to write the occasional letter but ladies and gentlemen I just make this point because, I understand, I really do understand the worry of service families when their loved ones are away serving in somewhere like Afghanistan. I find frequently its almost easier for those serving away than those that are left behind because you worry all the time. And so I do appreciate the extraordinary resilience and the unbelievable support provided by those families back here who encourage and remind their loved ones that they’re there for them despite what they are having to put up with and of course you can imagine ladies and gentlemen being a parent of two boys in the Armed Forces I do share with you the worry and anxiety of not knowing the exact details of our children’s whereabouts and obviously it’s a bit difficult for me, if I want to see what my children are up to I look at the front page of the Sun.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen we’re very grateful The Sun are sponsoring these awards and for just reminding us that we can’t do without the Armed Forces. They are an absolutely essential ingredient of life in this country and all I can say is there aren’t many better, there really aren’t and if this year didn’t prove that with the Olympics and if Afghanistan and what they were doing in Iraq doesn’t prove it then there is no other way to prove it. So we owe all of you all those who have served in the Armed Forces an endless debt of gratitude, thank you for everything you mean to us.