Bill Mott, being a soldier, is likely to associate professional recognition with medals, commendations, promotions and, perhaps above all else, modest words of appreciation from colleagues – nothing too vulgar and self-congratulatory. It’s in marked contrast to how things appear in the mainstream today. While success and appreciation seem increasingly dependent on an individual’s ability to self-promote, long-standing servicemen like Bill Mott go about their business asking for scandalously little in return.
That’s as it should be. Military service is just that – service. It cannot work if the individual puts himself before his unit, regiment or corps. The downside is that military people will tend to ask (and consequently get) a lot less than many of their civilian counterparts. I know, I know: what about the gongs senior officers get with the rations? Well, actually, what about it? Why wouldn’t the senior officer of the Army or Royal Navy be knighted? They’ve earned it, haven’t they?
And nor can the Armed Forces follow suit. They cannot encourage the me-culture presently gripping much of modern society. If they do, they will lose much, much more than they gain. In fact, they will lose the very thing that enables them to function, which is the willingness of people to put external interests above their own.
Though it’s not as bad as we might think. While the human race has a tendency for greed, vanity and self-aggrandisement, it also has a commensurate tendency for the opposite of these things. Where people are free to do bad things, they are also free to do good things. It’s that yin and yang thing, or a variant thereof. In time celebrity will wane. We’ll grow up and reserve celebrity for those who have achieved something first – along the lines of Admiral Lord Nelson.
It’s actually happening already. You might win a celebrity competition, but you’ve increasingly got to back it up with substance. I won’t dwell on the Olympics, but it makes the point. They achieve something real, we appreciate their achievement. That makes sense to me. Relapses will, of course, happen, such as Nobel Peace Prizes being awarded for strange reasons.
What about Bill Mott? Today he is Garrison Sergeant Major, London District, responsible for all things ceremonial. He’s come a long way. In fact, he’s come about as far as a guardsman can get: masterminding Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament, the Festival of Remembrance and, more recently, a Royal Wedding. And that’s not mentioning everything else he’s achieved since joining the Welsh Guards in 1979, including service during the Falklands War with his two brothers, surviving the bombing of RFA Sir Galahad.
In recognition of this exemplary service, in addition to his medals, commendations, promotions (what a lot there’s been) and pats on his back, he has been given the Freedom of the City of London. This is an accolade usually reserved for members of Livery Companies, the proverbial ‘great and the good.’ So it’s a nice gesture to recognise someone outside that bubble. Don’t you think so?
That’s all I wanted to say, really. Thoroughly deserved.