For Yvonne Fletcher, the morning of Tuesday 17 April began like any other. Her task that day was to police a demonstration, one of some 400 demonstrations held in London each year. It was, everyone thought, a routine task, which would probably be over by noon.
But shortly after ten o’clock the normal life of this London Square was shattered by a hail of bullets and Yvonne lay fatally wounded on duty in the heart of London. [end p1]
Today, the Square has resumed its peaceful way. But memories of those terrible events are still vivid in our minds. We have come here to remember Yvonne Fletcher, privately in our own thoughts, and publicly by this ceremony. Her death was a grievous loss—to her family, to the Metropolitan Police, and to all of us.
This simple memorial, erected by the Police Memorial Trust, will be a reminder to Londoners and to visitors alike of the debt that we owe to Yvonne Fletcher and all her colleagues in the Police. Without them the law could not be upheld. [end p2] Without them, indeed, there would be no law, and no liberty.
We have become used to seeing our police men and women respond magnificently to any challenge. But we must never take their professionalism for granted.
Too often especially recently, we hear that our police have been killed or wounded on duty. This has got to stop, and every single citizen has a duty to help make it stop.
Our police uphold the law without regard to their own feelings and their own safety, never knowing what the day may bring The greater the risk, the greater their courage. The greater their courage, the greater our loss. [end p3]
We also remember today their families, on whose support and affection they rely. We honour their courage and their sense of duty.
To some, the word duty may seem rather cold. But it is not—because you cannot carry out your duty without thinking of your fellow men; and you cannot know your duty unless you know and love what is right.
Today as I unveil this memorial to Yvonne Fletcher, let us also pay tribute to the other brave men and women police officers who have been killed or injured, [end p4] calling to mind as we do so the words of Abraham Lincoln:
“Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”