Published 26 June 2002

I am pleased to have the opportunity, on the occasion of this Golden Jubilee, to pay a special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces, and to express my personal appreciation for the support which you have given me, and my family, over many years.

I spoke earlier this year of the timeless values which characterise Britain: moderation, tolerance, and service to others. These characteristics, as well as others - courage, dignity, and pride - are especially apparent, and highly regarded, in the Armed Forces.

Like all parts of our society, you have experienced much change over the last fifty years. The threats we face have been transformed. But conflict, and the threat of conflict, are still with us.

I would like to mention, at this time, the men and women of all three Services engaged in the campaign against international terrorism, particularly those involved in operations in Afghanistan, or deployed at sea in the region. The logistical role of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary may not be widely recognised, but is essential.

I acknowledge, too, the work of the airmen and airwomen who, with others, are helping defend those in northern and southern Iraq; and the work of those recently in service in Sierra Leone or East Timor, or deployed in peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere.

And of course I would like to send my greetings to all of you undertaking the customary, but vital military tasks at home, be it in our airspace and seas, in Northern Ireland, or in The Falklands and other Dependent Territories.

The regard in which the Armed Forces are held in the UK, and around the world, is probably as high as it has ever been over the last fifty years. This is, in part, because of the critical role you play, day in and day out, in our society.

Everyone whose home you have helped save from fire or flood, or who saw you at work during the ravages of Foot and Mouth Disease, has reason to be thankful for your professionalism. It is also because the Services themselves increasingly reflect the makeup of our diverse society.

And you build on the work of those who have gone before. In Britain we remember those no longer serving, including those who have died for their country; for we in this nation have a deep and abiding respect for our past.

So today I would like to thank all of you for your part in defending Britain, and preserving peace around the world. I cannot think of a worthier task. My thoughts are with you all, wherever you may be. And my prayers are with your friends and families, without whose love and support you would not be able to do your duty. May God be with you all.