The announcement last week that a group of British heroes will lead the Queenâ€™s Jubilee pageant on the Thames on Sunday 3rd June, sailing in the Queenâ€™s rowbarge Gloriana, at the head of the fleet, was greeted with pleasure at St Maryâ€™s Calne. Among the number of servicemen and women chosen to take part â€“ all selected because they had shown great courage in battling adversity â€“ was Major Kate Philp, who came to speak at one of our regular lectures last year, and who impressed the girls with her humility and no-nonsense approach to life. Her â€˜get-up and goâ€™ attitude was evident, and her courage in the face of personal hardship was remarkable.
Major Philp was the first female British soldier to lose a limb in combat, when, in November 2008, the Warrior tank she was commanding in Afghanistan ran over a 50kg Taliban bomb, and exploded, killing one of her team and injuring three others. Her leg was shattered in the explosion, and initially surgeons thought that they had saved it, but it soon became clear that she would have a better chance of regaining mobility if they amputated. When she discovered that with a prosthetic limb she would be able to learn again to run, play tennis and ski, then she did not hesitate, and gave the go-ahead for the operation.
Amazingly â€“ and impressively â€“ she said she felt (and continues to feel) very lucky. Everything was put into perspective, she said, when she encountered other soldiers with far greater impairments and far more life-limiting injuries. Her determination to make the best of life â€“ and not just for herself, but for others, in the work she is now doing to support organisations who look after injured service personnel â€“ was inspiring.
Gloriana will be rowed by an 18 strong crew of Olympic and Paralympic champions and hopefuls, celebrating our great rowing tradition and success. The Jubilee pageant will be a sight to behold. And Major Kate Philp most certainly deserves her place aboard.