On Tuesday, The Duke of Kent was at the Amplifon ‘Brave Britons’ awards ceremony at the Army and Navy Club in Mayfair. The event celebrated the inspirational people – and animals – amongst us, contributing to society whilst overcoming immense obstacles.
Falklands veteran, Simon Weston was also in attendance to honour the amazing people and their achievements. He is involved with the event as he himself uses Amplifon hearing aids, as he suffers from tinnitus from his time in the army.
The event began with The Duke of Kent’s arrival, and he was piped into the room by one of the award’s nominees, 98-year-old James Beedie.
Following the lunch, the awards began with Simon Weston talking about his experience after being medically discharged from the army following his injuries in the Falklands in 1982. As a Welsh Guardsman, he was deployed to the Falklands and was on board the Sir Galahad when it was destroyed in the Bluff Cove air attack, and sustained burns to 46% of his body.
His superior officer described him as ‘totally unemployable’, and part of the reason he was determined to succeed following his military career was to prove that officer wrong. It is this fight and determination to overcome adversity that was seen in all the nominees.
In the ‘Active Agers’ category, was a Britain’s Got Talent winner, octogenarian fundraising cyclist, experienced bagpipe player, and a 90-year-old market stall trader, who still lugs around sacks of potatoes each day!
The other finalists included Colin Thackeray, 89, is a Chelsea Pensioner with a talent for singing, and stole people’s hearts with his rendition of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ in honour of his late wife. James Beedie is the oldest bagpipe player in the world at 98, and has taught many youngsters in his local area of Grimsby the skill. Joan Ward is 90 and still runs her market stall in Rotherham six days a week, and has no plans of stopping her work.
Mavis Peterson, however, won for her record-breaking cycling across the length of the UK. Mavis, 81, rode from Lands End to John O’Groats (960 miles) in support of Macmillan, in memory of her three children who died in their 40s. The charity supported her after her mother and sister’s deaths from cancer.
The Duke of Kent was on hand with MD of Amplifon, Paula Cave to hand out the certificates and trophies.
Mavis said after receiving her award: “I don’t feel brave!”
Next came the ‘Hero Pet’ award, for an animal that has transformed the life of its owner, or performed a courageous or life-saving act.
The category was won by assistance dog Ethan. He has transformed the life of owner Sally, helping with everyday life like shopping, and paying with her contactless card, retrieving items from across the house and even helping her to dress! Although only trained as an assistance dog, Ethan soon began to pick up when Sally was going to have a seizure.
Sally gave the good boy a treat upon stage after they got their award.
The other finalists included a shire horse, Beau, who saved his mate from colic, pulling at her bridle to get her to move, and stand up, just as the decision had been made to put her down. Henry, a cockapoo, meanwhile, joins his owners in the air for paragliding, but was a little nervous in a room full of people. Maggie was rescued from war-torn Lebanon, a blind dog, with one ear that had been shot at 17 times. She found a forever home in Brighton with owner Kasey.
It was a cancer-surviving eco-warrior that won the ‘Charity Champion‘ award. Kiko Matthews has cycled the coast of the UK raising awareness for the problem of single-use plastics, litter picking on the beaches and rallying local communities to help her. Kiko, who suffers with Cushing’s disease also became the fastest female solo rower across the Atlantic in 2018. She was described as ‘awesomely impressive’ by the judges.
The three finalists that joined Kiko were Neil Cliffe, 86, who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for cancer patients in the last 40 years in Cheshire. To do this, he has run more than 80 marathons. David Williamson is an amputee who undertook the gruelling challenge of 30 marathons in 30 days to help others; most recently he supported two disabled children and the charity Limb Power, which helped him get back into sport. Steadman Scott has dedicated his life to getting young people away from gang life and channelling their energies into football. One success story is that of Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool fame.
The ‘Young Hero‘ finalists were equally impressive. Two children under 10 saved the lives of a family member: Ben Hedger, 8, grabbed the steering wheel when his mum passed out whilst driving on the A120. Greg Galloway, 9, saved his grandad from drowning when they went fishing after he suffered a stroke. Another, 10-year-old Robyn Birdsell, scared away a burglar at home screaming at him and chasing him out the garden. Her description of the criminal helped in his arrest.
The winner, however, Ellie Challis is a quadruple amputee and breast-stroke swimming superstar, who lost her limbs after contracting meningitis as a baby. At 14, she has her eyes set on Tokyo 2020 Olympics, having already broken the women’s para world breast stroke time. She is even learning to snowboard, with the hopes of taking on the Winter Olympics too!
‘Service to their Country‘ was certainly demonstrated by these people. PC Mike Davey and police dog Bacca helped disarm a knife-wielding man in Herefordshire. Bacca was slashed by the knife eight times, but managed to subdue the assailant under Mike’s instruction. Richard Warren, 74, is the UK’s longest-serving special policeman, having served for 52 years. He still works an eight-hour shift each week and trains other specials. Kevin Milby was the sole person to tackle a blood-covered man carrying an axe, disarming him and arresting him.
The winners, meanwhile, were Joel Snarr and Daniel Nicholson, a former bomb disposal expert and shop manager respectively. The pair bravely approached a flaming plane wreck to save the pilot and two passengers when it crashed in south Wales, and smashed the windows to drag out those inside.
Judges commented on their ‘totally unselfish’ behaviour in an almost certain death situation, embodying the Brave Britons awards spirit.
In the ‘Against All Odds‘ category were some really inspirational people who have taken on some huge challenges.
Alice Begg was in a car accident, sustaining injuries – including pelvis fractures – they thought meant she would never walk again. Despite this, a few months later, she was competing in dressage, but fell from her horse and once again fractured her pelvis. She now has little feeling from the waist down, but is still riding. Jenny Graha is a world-record breaker, cycling 18,000 miles in just 124 days. Terry Kirby, meanwhile, is a paraplegic golfer, being paralysed from the chest down after a motorbike crash whilst he was serving in the army, and later having a tumour on his spine. He is captain of an able-bodied club, the first in the world.
Lee Spencer, a former marine, won the category. He lost his leg in an accident after trying to help when there was an accident. However, he still rowed across the Atlantic solo, being the fastest man to do so. The 3500 mile journey took him just 60 days, raising money for the Royal Marines Charity and Endeavour Fund. Judges said they were ‘totally in awe’ of his actions, going beyond the realms of human expectation.
There was an overall winner, who won a holiday to Italy, the home of Amplifon. The judges chose as Ellie Challis for her amazing attitude towards life, giving her sports her everything.
This award was presented by Freya, who won the overall award last year. Freya was in the Manchester Arena bombings in 2017. She was right next to the blast when it went off, killing her friend instantly, and leaving her with injuries that required more than 80 hours of surgery and physiotherapy to help her learn to walk again.
12 months on from the blast, Freya took part in the Great Manchester 2.5km Junior Run raised £60,000 for Manchester Children’s Hospital. Since then she has become an ambassador for the NHS and the Mayor of Manchester.She was described as having ‘courage and determination beyond her years’.
A truly humbling event.