Charles and PM unveil memorial to honour 'police who risk their lives to keep us safe'

28 July 2021, 14:17 | Updated: 28 July 2021, 18:36

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Prince Charles and Boris Johnson have unveiled a national memorial dedicated to police officers who "put their lives at risk to keep us safe".

The UK Police Memorial commemorates almost 5,000 police officers and staff who have died on duty - 1,500 from acts of violence - since half-brothers Henry and John Fielding established the Bow Street Runners in 1749.

Standing in its shadow, the Prince of Wales thanked police officers and staff on behalf of the country as he paid tribute to their "valour and sacrifice".

The Prime Minister told LBC the police are "indispensable" and deserve to be commemorated ahead of the unveiling at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

WATCH IN FULL: Nick Ferrari interviews Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Speaking exclusively to LBC's Nick Ferrari, who hosted Wednesday's event, Mr Johnson said the memorial was "massively important" to him and the country for remembering and honouring the country's police officers.

"We need to remember that our police officers, men and women, are people who run towards danger, who put their lives at risk to keep us safe and that point cannot be repeated often enough," he said when asked about its significance.

He added: "So far there's been no proper national memorial for police officers at the national arboretum in the way that there are commemorations for so many other services, particularly the armed services.

"I think it's the right thing to do."

Families of police officers who have been killed on duty were among the invited guests, as was the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, chief constables from forces across the country, and representatives from policing charities.

READ MORE: 'The names will keep growing': Former officer's stirring reaction to national police memorial

Charles told the invited guests during the open-air ceremony: "On behalf of the nation, I would particularly like to express my profound gratitude for the valour and sacrifice of those who have laid down their lives to keep us safe, to remember their families who mourn, and to recognise those who continue to serve in order to safeguard our freedoms.

"Whilst our expressions of appreciation will always be hopelessly inadequate and, unfortunately, make the anguish no easier to bear, I do pray that this memorial will not only provide a hallowed place for us all to pay tribute to each of them, but also the reassurance that those who have given their lives so selflessly will leave a lasting legacy and will never be forgotten."

Prince Charles speaks at the unveiling
Prince Charles speaks at the unveiling. Picture: PA
Families of police officers who have been killed on duty were among the invited guests
Families of police officers who have been killed on duty were among the invited guests. Picture: PA

A minute's silence was held to remember all those from the police service who have died in the line of duty and Charles then led a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary.

In a pre-recorded video message, Mr Johnson said: "No words can adequately do justice to the debt we as a nation owe your fallen colleagues, but I trust that this magnificent memorial in pride of place at the National Arboretum demonstrates the scale of our gratitude for their service, and that it will stand for centuries as a fitting tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the men and women who together form the finest police force in the world."

Boris Johnson told LBC the memorial was 'massively important'
Boris Johnson told LBC the memorial was 'massively important'. Picture: PA
The Prime Minister lays a wreath
The Prime Minister lays a wreath. Picture: PA

Nick Ferrari told Shelagh Fogarty afterwards: "There are very few jobs or trades where when you go to work there is a real possibility... that you're not going to come home and that's what these men and women do.

"What I think was special was this was the chance for everyone to show their respects.

"You could argue it's been a long time coming and it should have happened a while ago and it's been in the planning or making for five or six years but let's just remember... a lot of our listeners have helped fund this, so we must remember that, I think we put out two or three fundraising drives, so a lot of the listeners this is where your money has gone."

READ MORE: 'There were people in tears': Nick Ferrari on unveiling of memorial to fallen police officers

Nick Ferrari hosts Wednesday's event
Nick Ferrari hosts Wednesday's event. Picture: PA
Prince Charles with Katherine Jenkins and LBC's Nick Ferrari
Prince Charles with Katherine Jenkins and LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC

The new 39ft (12m) tall brass memorial features leaf-shaped apertures representing courage, sacrifice and lives lost.

It was designed by Walter Jack and includes two low screens bearing the names of 2,000 police officers and staff, along with spaces for reflection.

Readings were given by bereaved relatives of police officers, with Emma Barker, daughter of Pc Bill Barker of Cumbria Police, who was killed when he fell from a bridge that collapsed during the Cumbria floods in 2009, reciting the poem Beannacht by John O'Donohue.

She shared the reading with Sidney Mackay, father of Pc Nina Mackay, a Metropolitan Police officer fatally stabbed in London in October 1997.

Prince Charles and Boris Johnson both paid tribute to fallen police officers
Prince Charles and Boris Johnson both paid tribute to fallen police officers. Picture: PA
Katherine Jenkins performed at Wednesday's ceremony
Katherine Jenkins performed at Wednesday's ceremony. Picture: PA

Sir Hugh Orde, former chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and chairman of the Police Arboretum Memorial Trust, said: "This memorial is an important symbol of the past, the present and the future.

"For the past, it places a marker that someone's life mattered and they are honoured for what they gave. To say, albeit always imperfectly, to their loved ones 'Thank you. We recognise your loss and are here for you'.

"For the present, they remind us all, of the courage, commitment, resolve and dedication of police officers and staff to serve their calling day by day. Recognising that sometimes duty takes them to dangerous places, crossing a threshold - as this memorial represents - unsure of what lies beyond and where they place themselves in 'harm's way', sadly sometimes with a costly loyalty.

"And, for the future, the inspiration for others to put themselves forward to join the police service, to serve our communities and protect us from harm."