Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee: Awards & Accolades (Part V)

Over the years, leaders of Britain and Singapore in both government and commerce have been rewarded for their endeavours in strengthening important ties. 

The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world, evolving over 650 years as a means of rewarding the merit, gallantry and service of deserving and high achieving people, from charity workers to leaders of industry.


During Her Majesty’s 60-year reign, more than 404,500 honours have been awarded to deserving recipients from Britain and other parts of the Commonwealth.


From OBEs (The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) to Royal Warrants, which are issued to those who supply goods or services to the royal family, there are a number of honours that can be bestowed on both British residents and citizens of the Commonwealth countries.


An honour from The Queen is a highly prized accolade

An honour from The Queen is a highly prized accolade



Anyone can be put forward for an honour and there is a long list of foreign citizens who have received honorary awards. The British government, rather than The Queen, receives the nominations before senior civil servants and independent experts assess them.


One of the best-known and most esteemed awards: the OBE, was founded in 1917, to recognise service by civilians in the First World War. Today it is widely awarded for public service or other distinctions.


Awarding Singapore: Business and Beyond


The British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs recommends foreign nationals for honorary awards. In 1970, then Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was conferred the Order of the Companion of Honour. This accolade is given to individuals who have rendered important services in relation to the Commonwealth realm or foreign nations. Mr Lee was granted the award for outstanding achievement as the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister.


In 1989, during her second visit to Singapore, The Queen presented the then President, Wee Kim Wee, with the honorary title of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath in recognition of his work for the country.


While government ministers have been applauded for their work for the country a number of business leaders from Singapore and Britain have been rewarded for their work in strengthening bilateral ties. Shanker Iyer, a former Chamber President was awarded an OBE in 2002 for his services to commerce. He was elected to travel to London to receive the honour at Buckingham Palace.


Mr Iyer said that The Queen was travelling at the time, so Prince Charles made the presentation – and was impressed that Mr Iyer had journeyed such a distance. While an OBE is an illustrious accolade, today’s high-tech mailing programs sometimes have trouble handling the acronym – resulting in Mr Iyer often being addressed as Mr Obe!


An active member of the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, Mr Iyer said that one of his fondest memories was the 50th anniversary celebration of the chamber in 2004, which was attended by Mr Lee. “That was an approval of success for us as a Chamber of Commerce and personally I thought that was fantastic.”


Over the years, members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (BritCham) have featured prominently in the roll call of honours, including Terry O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer of retail giant Courts who received an OBE in 2010. Mr O’Connor was the President of BritCham Singapore from 1999 to 2002. As Chamber President, he helped to increase membership and deliver valuable services to the British business community in Singapore. He also spearheaded links with other British Chambers in neighbouring Asian countries to identify synergies and opportunities in the region.


Mr O’Connor says it is a tribute to the work of the Chamber that so many of its leading members have been awarded honours. “Getting an OBE is not automatic by any means and it’s not just by virtue of doing a job. The chamber development and influence in the community, good succession planning and good governance were clearly recognised by the High Commissioners of the day. “


Sir John Hegarty, one of the most legendary people in advertising was knighted in 2007, the first creative person from an advertising agency to be awarded a knighthood for services to advertising. Sir John heads Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), a BritCham member organisation. As chairman and co-founder of the advertising agency, he was responsible for picking a young actor called Brad Pitt to star in a Levi’s commercial, and introduced the British to the phrase "Vorsprung Durch Technik", on behalf of car manufacturer Audi.


Terry O’Connor OBE, CEO Courts; John Hadfield, CEO Asia Pacific – BBH; His Excellency Paul Madden, former British High Commissioner to Singapore; Sir John Hegarty of Bartle, Bogle Hegarty receives his knighthood from The Queen

Terry O’Connor OBE, CEO Courts; John Hadfield, CEO Asia Pacific – BBH; His Excellency Paul Madden, former British High Commissioner to Singapore; Sir John Hegarty of Bartle, Bogle Hegarty receives his knighthood from The Queen 


Notable local campaigns for BBH include the launch of YourSingapore, a global brand destination campaign for the country’s tourism board. Sir John said, “The fact that this was given to a creative person underlines the vital role creativity plays in our industry. I accepted the award on behalf of all those who are responsible for helping make British advertising the envy of the world.”


The ties that bind Singapore and Britain are also reflected in the awards and accolades made from nation to nation. Jonathan Asherson, regional director for Rolls-Royce Southeast Asia, has been awarded honours by both Britain and Singapore. He was conferred an OBE from Her Majesty for diplomatic and business services in 2008. Instrumental in relocating Rolls-Royce’s global marine headquarters to Southeast Asia in 2009, Mr Asherson was subsequently awarded a Public Service Medal from the Prime Minister of Singapore in 2010. The 2012 London Olympics – held in the same year as The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – will be remembered in many ways as an event that the UK and Singapore share. In 2005, Singapore was the centre of the world’s focus as the International Olympic Committee Session met in the country for the first time. It was here the announcement was made that London had been selected as the host city of the 2012 Summer Olympics.


Former British High Commissioner to Singapore, Sir Alan Collins, was a member of the delegation that won the bid for London to stage the 2012 Olympics, and subsequently became the Managing Director of Olympic legacy for UKTI (UK Trade and Investment). A career diplomat, Sir Alan was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1997 and a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 2006.


The continuing importance of the strengthening of bilateral relations between Singapore and Britain are key. Singaporean businessman Dr Albert Hong, co-chair of the Singapore-British Business Council, was awarded an OBE in 2009 for his contribution to developing the working relationship between the two nations. Dr Hong’s links with the United Kingdom go back to his days as an architecture student at Birmingham School of Architecture (now part of the University of Central England) in 1959.


Royal Warrants


Recognition from The Queen is a great honour and privilege and Royal Warrants are another form of such recognition.


Made to individuals or companies who have supplied goods or services for at least five years to a royal household or a member of the royal family, Royal Warrants are currently granted by The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales. The warrant enables the supplier to publicise the fact that they are a dedicated merchant to the royal family, which lends prestige to their product or service.


One of 60 limited edition crystal decanters containing the Diamond Jubilee blend of Johnnie Walker whisky

One of 60 limited edition crystal decanters containing the Diamond Jubilee blend of Johnnie Walker whisky


However, a warrant does not mean the goods are free of charge for the royal family. There are around 850 Royal Warrant holders, providing a range of products and services from food and drink to clothing, toiletries, and even information technology and storage solutions. A warrant is typically advertised with a coat of arms and the words, “By Appointment to… ”, followed by the title and name of either The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales.


A myriad of big-name British brands have had the honour of supplying the royal family, including Hamley’s toymakers; Waitrose supermarkets; Cadbury chocolate; Fortnum and Mason food suppliers; Jaguar automobiles; McVitie’s biscuits and John Lewis, a well-known British retailer.


Shell Oil is also credited, along with utility supplier British Gas and logistics company DHL, all of which serve the royal family in some capacity. Companies with a presence in Singapore also feature on the extensive royal warrant list. These include, Unilever consumer goods, Burberry luxury goods, GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals and electronics.


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