Tobias Ellwood: Military Training Gave Me Confidence To Help After Westminster Attack

Defence Minister, Tobias Ellwood has told Forces News his military training and experience gave him the confidence to step forward and help after the terror attack at Westminster last year.

The reservist and former regular in the British Army was hailed as a hero after he tried to save the life of PC Keith Palmer who was stabbed while on duty in the Palace of Westminster.

Mr Ellwood was walking through the Palace of Westminster when Khalid Masood ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing unarmed police officer PC Palmer a year ago.

Speaking to Forces News about that day in parliament, he said: 

“It was a normal day in the House of Commons… until you hear something you never expect to hear in parliament, and that’s the sound of high-velocity gunshots firing out, and then it was absolute panic and chaos.

“I immediately saw the incredible professionalism of the police force - they were already establishing a gun line.

“And then I saw PC Palmer on the ground, bleeding profusely with a couple of officers trying to help him.

“I think it was coming from an armed forces background that helped me understand; we are all very supportive of each other, there’s a comradeship that we have… and it's exactly the same with the police force.

“Every day, they don’t know how their day is going to unfold.

“I am a reservist, and I was in the regular force as well, and it’s that which gave me the confidence to step forward.

“Anybody in the military will know that if they were there, then they would have done the same thing."

The former Army officer whose brother, Jonathan, was killed in the 2002 Bali terror atrocity described how he is "haunted by" the fact he could not save PC Keith Palmer:

“I’m haunted by the fact that I found someone with a pulse, and sadly we weren’t able to save him.

obias Ellwood giving aid after the Westminster Terror Attack CREDIT PA/Stefan Rousseau
Tobias Ellwood after the Westminster Terror Attack CREDIT PA/Stefan Rousseau

“But in the armed forces, you learn to accept that death is part of what we have to deal with; anyone that spends a significant amount of time in the army will confront it.

“As with all military people and police officers, you find ways to deal with it, but it is tough.”

He paid tribute to the police for their work in a country "that seems to be getting more dangerous and more volatile".

The Defence Minister said the threats faced by the UK were not going away and involved not just terrorism but "resurgent nations challenging the world order".

Mr Ellwood, who has lobbied within government for extra funding for the armed forces, said:

"There are some big questions, wider questions, about what we do because this terrorist attack - non-state, caused by Daesh - they are not going away.

"These attacks will continue unless we step forward and actually participate, become more pro-active in dealing with what is a very changing and dark chapter that we are enduring."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said: "From 2002 to today, extremism is still there."

He added: "We are still not able to better understand why people with a scant understanding of Islam are able to be recruited with a false promise of a fast-track to paradise.

"Until that is grasped, until we can better ensure that the peaceful religion of Islam is better understood - probably at a very younger age - so these people aren't recruited, this threat will continue."

The threats faced around the world meant "the relative peace that we have had for the last three or four decades is going to be challenged".

"We are in a difficult time at the moment, there's no doubt about it."

He also again praised the work of the police on duty during last year's terror attack at Westminster.  "They were the ones that were defending Parliament and us, huge tribute to them," he said.

"They get up every day, they don't know how their day is going to unfold. They are the heroes."