Armistice Day honoured by American Society in London

Alastair Stewart

Former ITV News presenter

It doesn't get much more British than a black-tie dinner at the elegant Saville Club in London's Mayfair.

Across the road from the current US Embassy in London, it was also an appropriate setting for the 121st Annual Thanksgiving Dinner of the American Society in London.

Our hosts had also chosen to honour Armistice Day and had invited representatives of both the British and American armed services to the dinner.

They came in numbers in their splendid uniforms, tinkling with medals, heavy with braid and looking spectacular with their gold aiguillettes.

We were piped in by a member of the reservist London Regiment - always a thrill for even an Anglicised Scot like me.

Members and guests were piped in by a London Regiment reservist Credit: American Society for London

The main speech was from Captain Mark Rudesill, US Navy, a military attache at the Embassy.

He quoted Palmerston: 'We have no eternal allies, and no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and those interests it is our duty to follow".

Interesting, I thought, in the light of Donald Trump's election and his concerns about NATO.

But the good Captain also spoke to a history of Anglo-American relations; of shoulder to shoulder cooperation at times of global and regional conflict; of the brotherhood and sisterhood of fighting folk with a shared purpose.

I'd been invited to offer a vote of thanks.

My qualifications for so doing I suggested lay in the fact that my parents had both in the armed services - my father, an officer in the RAF and my mother a WREN - and that we had lived in the USA.

I said that, to me, Remembrance was about honouring ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things and about remembering the great clashes over humanity and liberty.

It was also about great nations coming together in that shared purpose.

The American Society in London honoured Armistice Day on Friday Credit: American Society in London

I jested that, despite that minor episode in 1776, much is forgiven, even forgotten, when the US & UK fight, cheek by jowl, in such great purposes.

Mindful of Captain Rudesill's quoting of Palmeston, I told the guests that my wife and I had lived in Washington DC when I was appointed the ITV News Correspondent there.

One story had dominated my brief tour of duty: Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the First Gulf War which had seen the armed forces of the US, the UK and many others fight together in one of the last, great pitched battles of the C20th.

But I also told them that, whilst in Washington, we cherished the great monuments.

The Lincoln boasts the Gettysburg address that spoke "of valour, of remembrance and of democracy".

My favourite, however, is the Jefferson: it celebrates some of the finest words on politics ever crafted.

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington Credit: Reuters

The most appropriate, perhaps, is this:

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man".

It is a noble slogan, fit for a flag under which those who oppose any form of tyranny might proudly march.

I ended by toasting our cousins in arms, in the company of our own wonderful British fighting men and women.

My toast was this:

"To a peaceful future, the external dream; to the honour of those who served and died;and to the honour of those who stand ready to defend our liberties again".

ITV News' Alastair Stewart during the Gulf War Credit: Alastair Stewart