Honoured at last: the quiet Englishman who saved 669 children from the Nazis

Michael McCarthy
Tuesday 31 December 2002 01:00
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A story of the mass rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis comes full circle today with the award of a knighthood to their rescuer, Nicholas Winton, in the New Year honours list.

Mr Winton, 93, was a stock exchange clerk from Maidenhead who became involved in the plight of Czechoslovakian children in German-occupied Prague in 1939. He smuggled 669 of them to Britain before the war, but his role remained a secret for half a century.

Mr Winton recently had an emotional meeting with some of the 5,000 descendants of the "Winton children", who would not otherwise be alive – few of their parents survived the Nazi onslaught. His knighthood is "for services to humanity".

Other awards for steadfastness in the face of adversity include appointments as OBE for Neville and Doreen Lawrence, parents of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, whose campaign to obtain justice for their son touched the nation. The Reverend Tim Alban Jones, vicar of St Andrew's Church, Soham, who was praised for his pastoral work after the deaths in August of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, is appointed MBE.

The awards are typical of a list in which quiet merit is recognised over celebrity achievement. Several teachers are honoured – one is knighted, another made a Dame – as are many in the health service. But there is still a sprinkling of famous names. The actor Alan Bates and the film director Ridley Scott are knighted, while the actors Brenda Blethyn, Edward Fox and Jean Simmons are appointed OBE. The entertainer Jasper Carrott is created OBE, as is the Cornish celebrity chef Rick Stein.

The founding editor of The Independent, Andreas Whittam Smith, is appointed CBE for his recent work as the chief British film censor.

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