As our Centenary Year begins, we feel it right to commemorate and celebrate one hundred years of service, dedication, vision and sheer hard work by individuals united by a love of the sea and its people. With our unique remit, Seafarers UK will continue to provide support and leadership to our maritime family as we embark on our next one hundred years. I hope that this special evening, along with our Centenary booklet, will enable you to enjoy the story of our past, recognise the contribution and difficulties of seafarers of the present, and further help us in our aim to provide vital support for future generations to come.
In 1917, a new charity for the maritime community was
established. Such was the impact of so many seafarers who had been
maimed or lost at sea during the Great War that my great-grandfather was
prepared to give his name to this new charity and so it became the King
George's Fund for Sailors. Since then the Fund has helped all seafarers
and their families across the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and Fishing
Fleets who were in desperate need.
Seafaring is a hidden profession, for the most part out of sight, yet as an island nation we remain reliant on our seafarers to defend us, feed us and supply us with 95% of the things we take for granted. Seafarers continue to face a distinctive and often poorly understood mix of problems from operating in an often hazardous workplace and regularly dangerous environment which requires long periods of separation from their families and loved ones.
100 years on, the Fund has become known as Seafarers UK to better reflect those it helps and has become something of a subject matter expert through the provision of grants to organisations and projects vital to the maritime community and which make such a huge difference to people's lives. In this, the charity's Centenary Year, I hope you will join us In highlighting the debt of gratitude we owe the generations of seafarers by reflecting upon the sacrifices of the past, supporting the present and encouraging the future knowing that we are always there to support and help them in times of need.
Originally built between 1411 and 1440 - with its
fourth Great Hall roof, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, erected in
1953 - Guildhall has been at the hub of City life since the Middle Ages,
an era when the Lord Mayor of London rivalled the monarch for influence
and prestige. Here the ruling merchant class held court, fine-tuning the
laws and regulations that established London's wealth, The stage for
state trials and remonstrances to kings, Guildhall has played a key part
in London's dramatic history. Peers, an archbishop and a queen were
tried at Guildhall for treason during the Reformation.
Guildhall was designed to reflect the power and prestige of London and its leaders. It has revelled in the pageantry and spectacle of state and mayoral occasions since 1502 and remains the civic and ceremonial centre of the City, Over centuries, its Grade 1-listed walls have entertained heads of state and heroes, from the lavish hospitality bestowed on the Prince Regent, Czar of Russia and King of Prussia to mark the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, to rousing receptions for Team GB's 2012 Olympians and, most recently, Her Majesty The Queen's 90th birthday celebrations.
Admiral Lord West joined the Navy aged 17. He served
in 14 different ships and commanded three of them. He was awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross for his part in the 1982 Falklands War
whilst in command of HMS Ardent. He served three years as Chief of
Defence Intelligence covering the Kosovo War before he was promoted to
Admiral in 2000 when he became Commander-in-Chief Fleet, leading the
UK's maritime response to 9/11 including the invasion of Afghanistan. He
became First Sea Lord in 2002 and led the Navy during its crucial role
in the initial invasion of Iraq.
He retired as First Sea Lord in 2006 before being asked to join the Government in 2007 as the minister responsible for national security and counter-terrorism. He left government in 2010 and is currently chairman or strategic advisor to a number of companies. He is also Chancellor of Southampton Solent University and Knight President of the Knights of the Round Table. Lord West was made a Knight Commander of the Order of The Bath in 2000, Knight Grand Cross in 2004, Baron in 2007 and a Privy Counsellor in 2010.