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Tribute to a gallant viscount: Well done, Sir!

31 January, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Viscount Slim at the memorial unveiling in 2012

I HAVE a fixed memory of a straight-backed figure, with a military bearing, smiling at people, shaking hands, and booming: “Well done, Sir. Well Done!”

It belonged to Viscount Slim – and the occasion was six years ago when he, gallantly, unveiled the memorial in Mornington Crescent to civilians and soldiers many of whom died in Japanese Prisoner-of-War camps in the Far East in the Second World War.

In a way, he stood in for Prince Philip who wanted to attend the ceremony but got caught up with other engagements. When asked to unveil the memorial John Slim, 2nd Viscount Slim, didn’t hesitate.

The memorial – the only one in London – was generously paid for by New Journal readers.

Viscount Slim – who died recently at 91 – was the son of William “Bill” Slim, 1st Viscount Slim, the famous commander of the 14th army that fought the Japanese in Burma, often seen as the “forgotten army”. He was a forceful and forthright officer who cast a long shadow which his son spent his early years trying to step out of.

He succeeded – and became a decorated officer himself, inheriting at least one quality from his father, a loud voice.

At the unveiling ceremony Viscount Slim mingled freely with war veterans and relatives, those who had languished in the Far East camps.

After unveiling the memorial in front of a battery of cameras, Viscount Slim went off with members of the audience, some of whom had been “squaddies” in the army, for lunch at the military barracks in nearby Albany Street.

Remembering Viscount Slim as he sat, talked and laughed, surrounded by old war veterans, at the lunch on that day, may I say: “Well done, Sir. Well done!”


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