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  • My Father was a fortunate man. He was fortunate above all to have my sister, Pam, look after him with such dedication. He is fortunate to have a friend, like Richard Burkitt, to speak of his qualities and achievements in his later years and to have you, his friends and colleagues, come today to wish him “God speed”.

    I can speak of him through the eyes of his son, but I cannot speak for the friendships he forged in the heat and dust of tank battles in the North African desert in 1942 nor can I speak for the young people he inspired at Millfield School in Somerset – in particular those youngsters he coached in his favourite sport, canoeing.

  • I do remember however when, after the War as the Port Commandant of the Suez Canal in 1955, he took us as a young family aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, when it sailed into Port Said; and one of my happiest moments was acting as his logistics support, when he canoed the 125 miles, including carrying his canoe over 27 portages, for 32 hours on the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race as a 70 year old veteran. I was always proud of my Father. He was a moral man. I think of him as honest, industrious, thrifty and modest, and he valued above all the quality of “service to others”.

  • In our contemporary culture, which appears to admire fatuous celebrities and conspicuous consumption, these qualities seem like old fashioned virtues. But lines from the 1927 prose poem “The Desiderata of Happiness” come to mind:

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career; however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery, but let not this blind you to what virtue there is. Many people strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.


  • In a post-British Empire world, with an increasing number of kleptocracies whose elites pillage the natural resources of their countries for their own benefit, it is the simple decency of men and women like yourselves and like my Father, Lieutenant Colonel James Vernon Cornwell, that is the glue that holds the fabric of caring, civilised societies together.

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