In contrast, descriptions such as “star” and “legend” and other such similar words are inappropriate and lack perspective.
Recently, the media have categorised the modern hero as being a sportsman or film star – worlds away from the true definition.
Every “casualty” of war will be a hero to someone, be it family, friends, loved ones or peers. They will look upon the person with imbued respect and immense pride. They will have pride for the person’s life and their achievements or acts of courage and gallantry – the acts that put them on a pedestal and place them apart from others.
I commend to you the exploits of Noel Chavasse and Olaf Schmid, despite their works being separated by 95 years. Or, to stir the blood, HMS Glorious, that will take you to the deeds of the destroyers HMS Ardent and Arcasta, and the resulting VCs for outstanding courage.
If, perhaps, you may wish to look deeper, I suggest recipients of the Victoria and George Cross.
Like Schmid or Chavasse, a fireman entering a blazing house or a policeman confronted by a shotgun takes immense courage. Heroes are conscious of the possible outcome. When judged in that context, perhaps the word “hero” ought to be used in one definition and left at that.
Historian Richard Houghton will continue his essay on heroism next week.
BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year will be broadcast on Sunday evening, from 7.30pm.