A tribute to British heroes

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June 1

Dear Sirs,

I humbly submit this letter as a tribute to two British heroes.

In this last bleak year of the virus some quite outstanding heroic efforts have been recorded, especially those of the nurses, doctors and staff of health services and all the laboratory staff that so speedily produced an effective anti-virus.

Plain (ex) Captain Tom Moore, at near to 100 years of age raised our spirits and in so doing became an international celebrity to become Captain Sir Tom Moore.

His feat of walking round his garden 100 times before his 100th birthday raised for the British NHS 32.8 million pounds to date; the largest amount one person has ever raised by their own efforts. We all applauded the knighthood bestowed on him by the Queen.

But in all the words written about Tom Moore I have seen no mention of another British hero bearing the same name; Lt. General Sir John Moore (1752-1809). With his regiment in India and later with Wellington’s army engaged in driving Napoleon back over the Pyrenees during the Peninsula War, his men revered him, thought the world of him and died for him.

His humane treatment of his men was quite the opposite to the cruelty shown by some commanders; he never once ordered a court-martial because one was never needed. At Coruña his army was under siege from the French and a rampart (probably stakes driven into the ground and covered with stones and earth) was built for protection.

On a moonless night in January 1809, with the French on the brink of capitulation, John Moore was checking on his troops when a shot rang out. A bullet entered his shoulder by his neck and ended up deep inside him and he died shortly after. Exactly the entry spot that killed Wolfe at Quebec and Admiral Nelson. He was their hero but they were unable to give him the funeral he deserved. He was buried in the soil of the rampart in a blanket and overcoat.

Some years later a young poet wrote what has been described as the most poignant and poetic memorial to him. (First verse)

”Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note
as his corpse to the rampart we hurried.
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero we buried.”
(Charles Wolfe, 1791-1823)

Peter Purvey

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