This evening, 21st October, saw a fantastic virtual event which allowed us to announce the truly inspirational Winners of our third group of award categories.
Whilst ALL of our finalists – and indeed, all nominees for this year’s awards – are have achieved so much in their own right, the shortlist for the Inspiration and Lifetime Achievement categories honed in on some incredible accomplishments.
The ceremony was hosted by retired Royal Air Force hero John Nichol, a prolific journalist and commentator on military affairs. John has been a supporter of the Soldiering On Awards for many years and we were thrilled that he was able to compare our final virtual ceremony of the year.
The ceremony was attended by the Category Finalists and Sponsors, Patron Of the Soldering on Awards, the Rt. Hon. Earl Howe, Sir John McColl, WO1 Dean Morgan and General Swift.
As the winners found out, the news was simultaneously shared across social media channels.
The Earl Howe, Patron of the Soldiering On Awards said:
“These Awards recognise and acknowledge the enormous efforts and achievements from many people across the military community who help and support those in need; volunteers, charity teams, public servants, social enterprises, veterans themselves, individuals, employees… the wider military community is incredibly diverse!
“That help and support manifests itself in acts of kindness, the raising of money, provision of services, tremendous acts of courage or endeavour and ultimately doing great things to support those who have served.
“Our service men and women take part in military campaigns at the behest of the Government and on behalf of us all. They deserve not only our respect and thanks, but also our support. Thank you to all our finalists, many of whom are veterans themselves, for being exemplar in providing that support.”
Our finalists were:
George Batts MBE, Leg d’honneur – George has dedicated his life to providing for the welfare of the Normandy veteran community, and was instrumental in the creation of the British Normandy Memorial – an achievement borne of his determined campaigning, fundraising and unwavering commitment.
Martin Frank “Bill” Sykes BEM – Frank has spent his life supporting veterans via the War Pension Committee and organisations including RAFBF, Royal British Legion and SSAFA, for whom he still continues to raise the charity’s profile through marketing and publicity at the grand age of 101!
Sir Alistair Irwin, KCB CBE – Since retiring, Sir Alistair has devoted his life to the betterment of the Armed Forces community, serving tirelessly for many organisations, including as President of Veterans Scotland, Poppyscotland, Royal British Legion Scotland and the Officers Association Scotland.
You can read more about these finalists here.
We are delighted to announce that the Winner is…
George Batts MBE, Leg d’honneur
D-Day Veteran George Batts was an 18-year-old Sapper when he landed on Gold Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944. He survived the horrors, while many of his friends and comrades tragically died.
George has dedicated his life to providing for the welfare and camaraderie of the young men who came home, many bearing the physical and mental scars of war, and honouring the memory of those who did not. He became National Secretary and Treasurer of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, supporting his comrades and helping thousands of veterans to make an annual pilgrimage to Normandy.
Throughout his life, George maintained the ambition to build a worthy memorial in France to commemorate those that died on D-Day and in the subsequent Normandy Campaign. Seventy-seven years after the battle, his dream was realised when the British Normandy Memorial officially opened on 6th June 2021 – an achievement borne of George’s determined campaigning, fundraising, media engagement and his unwavering dedication to the remembrance of the 22,442 servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Even at the age of 95, George has been actively involved in all aspects of this tremendous project and he continues to fundraise tirelessly for the preservation of the Memorial as Patron of the Guardian programme. In addition, he instigated the ‘Normandy Voices’ project to capture the memories of more than 170 surviving veterans for a comprehensive national archive.
“In 2016, George’s service to veterans was recognised with an MBE by the Queen, an honour that proudly sits alongside his Legion d’honneur awarded by the French government.”
George has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the Normandy veteran community. He delivers countless conferences, talks and presentations, inspiring young people and bringing to life the reality of war and the lessons that must be learned.
“As George said: ‘After the conflicts, many friends and colleagues were left behind on the beaches, the fields and in jungles. These are the real heroes, and we must and will always remember them.’”
George Batts said:
“Going to Normandy so many times – I was disappointed that the Americans had their own cemetery, the Canadians had their own cemetery, but for us to go and honour our mates there were 19 cemeteries to visit, so it was a heck of a journey round, and as you get older you can’t journey as much.
I started canvasing in 2010-2011 for a memorial to cover everyone who was killed in the Normandy campaign. I didn’t get the support I wanted initially, but in September 2014, I wrote to David Cameron, he backed me, and I got £20million out of the LIBOR funds to start it, and now it’s finished.
3 days ago I was in Normandy seeing it for the first time. It was so emotional, but at that time I couldn’t think. It was a couple of hours afterwards when it really hit home. I had approached so many people and got turned down, but there it was, with little me having started it all! I’m so proud of that. Also, may I please thank everybody who nominated and put me in the position of winner. I can’t express appreciation on that, if I do, I’ll start to cry!”
Lt Colonel Ren Kapur MBE, CEO of X-Forces Enterprise and Soldiering On Awards said:
“I send my very best wishes to George, for all he has done and for all he continues to do for the armed forces community and especially the British Normandy Memorial. This Lifetime Achievement Award is testament to his hard work and tenacity.
“We are delighted to congratulate these inspirational winners and it was incredibly special to gather everyone together and celebrate our amazing community after such a challenging 18 months.
“These virtual events have allowed us all to come together and celebrate once more, as we build-up to our glamorous in-person Gala Dinner on December 15th. Having not had the opportunity to celebrate in-person since 2019, this December will be the military gala dinner of the year and being able to have everyone together for a night of celebration is something that we’ve all needed for some time. I’m very much looking forward to shining a light on the incredible armed forces community.
The Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP said:
‘George is a remarkable man. Not only did he show extraordinary bravery in clearing mines on Gold Beach on 6th June 1944, but he has also gone on to help so many people he’s raised morale for veterans and their families and has been key in raising awareness and funding for the British Normandy Memorial.
‘I want to thank the Soldering on Awards for the great work they do. The past year has reminded us more powerfully than ever before of the debt we owe the remarkable armed forces community.
‘There are so many powerful stories to tell, and this is an opportunity to tell this special community how much we appreciate what they have done and continue to do for all of us.
‘There is a keen public interest in remembering and thanking those who go above and beyond to keep us safe sometimes in such challenging circumstances.’
A word from our Sponsor…
Duncan Bruce, Vice President Customer Experience – Global Strategic Clients Group at Oracle said –
“These outstanding finalists represent the very ethos and spirit of the Armed Forces Community and Oracle is immensely proud to support this unique award. Each finalist shows incredible service to the Armed Forces Community and has dedicated their lives to this. It is truly an honour to be in the presence of these incredible individuals.”