10 Downing Street
The Prime Minister's Sovereign's Parade speech: 6 August 2021
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech at the Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
This is an extraordinary moment in your lives and your careers
you have just completed one of the most famous and intensive courses of military training since the Spartans threw their recruits into rivers
and I can imagine that in the last 44 weeks there have been times when some of you may have wondered fleetingly whether it has really been worth it
when you’re yo-yoing 50 feet above the tarmac on a two rope bridge with nothing to break your fall
when you’re tiger crawling through malodorous slurry like the final scene of the shawshank redemption
when you are getting the hairdryer treatment from the RSM because he has detected a blemish in the sheen of your toecaps
and he is casting doubt in front of the whole parade ground on your paternity and on the morals of your mother
and I apologise to all loving parents here, but we must be frank about the kind of thing that is said on these parade grounds
then you can be forgiven if for a tiny second you have said to yourself quietly stuff this for a lark
and we know how exacting this course can be
we know that Winston Churchill himself failed three times even to be selected for Sandhurst
we know that on average one in six of your friends, fellow cadets, has dropped out
and I am here on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the whole country to thank you for persevering
because it is in those very moments of adversity and self doubt that resilience is forged
You have learned something far more important than how to use kiwi and cotton wool and water to shine your toecaps or how to fire a gun
because the face of battle has changed utterly since Sandhurst officers formed their men into scarlet squares at the battle of Waterloo
and the weapons of war, you can see around you have changed beyond recognition even since I was a cadet
I was trained on a Lee Enfield 303 that had been used at the battle of Mons
and I will never forget the terror on the face of my instructor
but there is one utensil that has not changed, one priceless skill that Sandhurst gives you
and that is leadership the ability to inspire, to improvise, to rally, to think ahead
constantly to put yourself in the shoes of others and to help bring out the best in them, not to make them believe that you can do anything, but that they can do anything
and after 220 years in which British Armed Forces have found themselves engaged for good or ill in about 163 of the 193 countries in the UN
and in which we have acquired and unbundled an empire seven times bigger than the Roman empire at its height
we in this country are wise enough and humble enough to understand that the aim of our amazing armed forces should never again be conquest
and the purpose of all our military professionalism should never be war, but peace and friendship
and so it is fantastic that today there are soldiers from 22 other countries from Sierra Leone to the US
and I wish you the very best in your careers
and if you cannot all follow the example of one distinguished middle eastern leader who I am told has constructed an entire replica of a Camberley pub complete with bar staff
I hope that you will look back fondly on your time here and in particular to the weather
and to those of you who will be helping to lead the British army
thank you for what you are going to do
to uphold the values of this country
freedom, democracy human rights the rule of law, bravery, perseverance
in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world
and in this country too when there are flood defences to be dug, when there are hospitals to be built and patients to be airlifted from remote Hebridean islands
when there are vaccine centres to be constructed with lightning speed and thousands upon thousands of lives to be saved here in the UK
we know that we can rely on the men and women of the British army and the leadership that has been acquired here at Sandhurst
Thank you for sticking with it
I am proud of you, your families are proud of you and I know that you are going to make the whole country proud of you
Thank you very much and congratulations
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