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“People are far more important than places”

“People are far more important than places”

Tuesday 28 February 2023

“People are far more important than places”

Tuesday 28 February 2023


The Lieutenant-Governor has warned against fantasy visions of what a society should be, or what it once was, suggesting that people in a community are more important than the place itself.

Lieutenant-General Richard Cripwell CB CBE is just over a year into his stint as the Bailiwick’s 126th Lt.-Governor and hopes to leave his mark on the islands. However, he has consistently made clear his lack of responsibility, power, and command over politics and people.

“Most importantly, I don’t have many views,” he said during a lunch hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. He said that he does have ambitions while in post, they just cannot be overt.

The chance to preside over three separate and unique communities – Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark – convinced him to apply for the post over the vacancy in Jersey. 

But Lt.-Governor Cripwell did offer some clues into his perception of our society and its machinations.

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Pictured: The Lt.-Governor addressing Chamber members yesterday.

During the interview for the governorship, he remarked how he did not believe the islands were a paradise - something he maintains, now having lived locally. 

He noted the “extraordinary generosity” of the people, while expressing moderate surprise at the hundreds of charities currently active.

He also highlighted a rose-tinted, golden age rhetoric present in some areas: “There seems to be a movement about making Guernsey ‘Guernsey’ again… you don’t want to live in the pages of a Nevil Shute novel."

He said that places inevitably change and those in the present should navigate themselves using the lessons of the past for free. If he were to blindly praise the islands he would earn a round of applause, with only a few perceiving the claim as coming from a “myopic old man”. The same would be true in reverse, he said. 

To him, his relationship with the Bailiwick is more about “the journey”, rather than the destination. But he admitted that “a bad day in Guernsey is a much better day” than in most other places.

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Pictured: Lt-Gov Cripwell has been throwing himself into island life.

His career in the armed forces spanned 40-years, with 25 separate postings in more than 70 countries, moving from the most junior roles to intelligence and then command and quasi-diplomatic positions.

Lieutenant-Governor Cripwell joined the British Army aged 19 in 1982 due to the “second oldest reason in the world - because my mother told me to”.

He said he was “the epitome of the officer with a map.” The audience, therefore, may have been surprised to learn of his self-proclaimed lack of sense of direction. He remarked that he accidentally strayed into Ireland during the troubles, crossed the border into Mozambique, and lost a bridge destined for construction over a river in Germany. 

But in typical fashion for armed forces alumni, he said he loved the organisation, its people, and its standards and values.  He also bucked the trend by forging a role in which he was able to do what he wanted, much to the fascination of his contemporaries.

While he travelled the world and saw unbelievable sights, he argued that it's not the destination but those you meet along the way that matter.

“People are far more important than places…it doesn’t matter where you are, people are the same,” he said, explaining that wants for safety, shelter, and prospects are not defined by borders. 

“Those things are fundamental to the lives people want to lead… kindness deserves much more attention than it currently gets.”

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Pictured: Lt-Gov Cripwell served in the armed forces for four decades.

Leadership also featured, suggested as something which is not set in stone but always to be learned. Lt.-Governor Cripwell’s favourite quote on the subject is: “Leadership is about you”. 

“That gets to the heart of leadership… if you’re a fraud or a cheat you will be found out.”

When asked how to build trust as a leader, he said “you have to show you care more than anything else”.

"Soldiers will move mountains to make sure you’re successful, but only if they know those in command care.

“If you do not have moral courage, you are already on the back front”, he said, noting that it's a valuable to thing to sometimes experience real fear – as he and comrades did on the battlefield. 

While there were instances of him disagreeing with the direction of the armed forces, Lt.-Governor Cripwell argued “if you’re not prepared to do something then you shouldn't go”.

“If you serve, you serve.”

His Excellency bookended his deliberately short speech with admissions of his dislike for speaking about himself and the rarity of making a public speech. Nevertheless, he cut a confident, humorous yet serious figure.

He revealed his broad fascination with life, saying his bookshelf features everything from Russian gang tattoos to Mayan culture.

“Everything is a learning experience… I find everything interesting,” he said. 

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