By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC
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Last night I hosted a dinner at the House of Lords for some of the bravest individuals in the country – our bomb disposal community. The date of the event was not chosen at random. It was exactly 408 years ago last night that the first successful “bomb disposal operation”, if I can call it that, was launched when Guy Fawkes and his accomplices were prevented from blowing up the House of Lords.
Last night’s dinner, attended by more than 40 people, was intended to raise awareness of the Felix Fund, a charity that supports bomb disposal experts and their families.
I extended a warm welcome to those whose courage and self-sacrifice have helped keep us, and others abroad, safe in an age when the enemy and terrorists have very much more sophisticated weapons than were available to those planning the Gunpowder Plot.
I first became aware of the full extent of the work of our bomb disposal teams when I researched my book, George Cross Heroes. I last hosted a Felix Fund event at the House of Lords in 2011 to mark the charity’s launch. Two years on, the Felix Fund has achieved a great deal for the bomb disposal community including:
- 250 EOD personnel have benefitted from therapeutic “normalisation breaks” on their return from Afghanistan.
- Three EOD barracks have received new playgrounds.
- A widow and her newborn child have been supported financially in the 12 months following their bereavement.
- Three severely injured bomb disposal personnel have had contributions to home adaptations and specialist furnishings.
- A welfare flat for families in crisis has been refurbished.
However, there is much more work to be done. With further support, the Felix Fund can continue re-uniting the courageous Brimstone search-and-disposal teams beyond the end of Op Herrick next year; it can extend the “normalisation break” programme to include EOD teams returning from Northern Ireland; it can build a new gym at Vauxhall Barracks; and it can provide for the long-term future of children whose fathers died conducting, or assisting, bomb disposal duties.
Over the past decade, I have done my best to champion bravery and many of those who have received gallantry medals. This extends to all forms of courage, including “spur of the moment” bravery, but I have a particular respect for those who carry out premeditated, or “cold”, courage knowingly they are risking their lives time and again by going into a highly-dangerous situation.
Such individuals, of course, include our bomb disposal community. I will never fully understand the sort of pressure that bomb disposal teams are placed under. However, I have, twice in the past three years, spent training days with Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operators. My insight into their work has left me with me with a feeling of total respect for the dangerous and difficult tasks that bomb disposal teams perform.
I would urge everyone to consider supporting the Felix Fund, thereby helping a special group of individuals and an extremely worthwhile cause.
*Those wanting to know more about the work of the Felix Fund and/or wanting to make a donation should visit: www.felixfund.org.uk. Those wanting to know more about Lord Ashcroft’s book should visit www.georgecrossheroes.com.