Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, it is a huge honour and personal privilege for me to be here today.
I have been the Patron of the DNRC for 4years and I have enjoyed every single moment of it. I have seen the growth of an idea transfer into what we see today – and it is rare and immensely satisfying thing to have witnessed. Every time I have come here, there is something new – sometimes in terms of thinking, obviously in terms of construction, and always in terms of a will to achieve what my friend Gerald, the late Duke of Westminster set out to do.
Along the way I have demolished a building – George was at an age at the time that he loved seeing the digger in action, so it did my street cred as a father the world of good; I had my first go on a hand cycle a year ago when the extraordinary hand cycle track had been completed – and I have to admit that it’s more difficult than you might think.
Throughout the process, I have met many of the major donors who have so generously helped make this happen; and, at every stage, I have been inspired by people who have triumphed in adversity after some very serious wounding.
I very much echo what the Duke of Westminster said earlier, that the opportunity to extend to civilians what has been done on theDefence side of rehabilitation estate is central towhat Gerald Westminster set out to achieve – he told me that he viewed it as the ‘big prize’. I should, along with many others here today, very much like to see that opportunity come to pass. To that end, it is heartening that the latest ambassador for the DNRC is a civilian, Billy Monger, who as many of you will know has returned to motor racing after a very serious accident.
Hugh Westminster has outlined the many people who have brought the DNRC to this stage. I do not underestimate the complexity of the construction task here and the quality that has been required.
This is been possible because of the engagement of planning authorities across the Midlands; the work of the architects, not least in the course of 300 user groups to ensure the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan have been captured; and of course we also have to thank those who project managed the construction of this place and Interserve who have actually built this.
I now have a specific duty to perform – to read the winning poem from the DNRC National poetry competition. The number of entries was extraordinary – nearly 5 and a half thousand. Participation in the public vote was also very high and the winning poem gained nearly half of the votes. The poet is here today with her family,and her work will be visible on a mural in the Patient Dining Room for all who are treated here to see it. So let me read you ‘One for the team’:
One for the team
I keep seeing you mate, intact and laughing,
holding up your baby to make us smile.
I keep hearing you mate, joking, urging, ‘come on lads keep together, don’t step on the cracks it brings bad luck’.
‘Keep it tight boys, we’ll be home by the footy season’.
We carried you home, silent and broken, you really took one for the team that day.
Your dad stood with pride head high, don’t cry, don’t cry.
Lucy took the flag, a token for the broken. The baby will have it one day.
They’ll go to the wall to see your name, a game, ‘let’s find daddy’s name’ but I keep seeing you mate, my shrink says you’re not there, that makes us laugh doesn’t it?
What do they know.