London: The UK fell silent in tribute to service personnel who have died during conflicts, as part of the annual Remembrance Sunday service. A two-minute silence was observed, before the Queen laid the first wreath at the Cenotaph in central London. The monarch joined more than 10,000 veterans and civilians, who then marched past the monument.
The National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall is a unique expression of national homage devoted to the remembrance of those who have given their lives in war. It was originally conceived as a commemoration of the war dead of the First World War but after the Second World War the scope of the ceremony was extended to focus on the nation’s dead of both World Wars, and in 1980 it was widened once again.
The Queen led the nation in honouring members of the Armed Forces killed in conflict as Remembrance Sunday services took place around the UK to remember our war dead. The monarch laid the first wreath at the Cenotaph on Whitehall to commemorate all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the decades since the First World War, bowing her head after paying her respects. Senior royals, including Second World War veteran the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge – with wife Kate watching from a nearby balcony – joined the monarch and politicians, military leaders, veterans and serving personnel in laying wreaths of poppies at the monument.
Prince Harry was laying the wreath on behalf of his father Prince Charles, who is currently abroad on an official tour of India with the Duchess of Cornwall, and was marking the occasion there. Troops in Afghanistan were joined by the Duke of York, who laid a wreath during a service held at CampBastion in HelmandProvince to mark Remembrance Sunday. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond also flew to Afghanistan last night to join servicemen and women.
Millions across the UK fell silent in tribute to those lost in war, joining the crowds gathered in central London who stood in a moment of quiet contemplation as Big Ben struck 11am. During the two-minute silence, only the distant sounds of traffic and the rustling of leaves could be heard, despite the fact that police said Whitehall was at capacity.
The beginning and end of the silence was marked with the firing of a round by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, using a 13-pounder First World War gun. In cold but bright weather, the royals and dignitaries then laid their wreaths at the Cenotaph. Prime Minister David Cameron was first after the royals to do so, followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Former prime ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and London Mayor Boris Johnson also took part in the ceremony. Foreign Secretary William Hague is currently returning from talks on Iran in Geneva, but wrote on Twitter that he was sorry to miss the Remembrance Day service.
The Duchess of Cambridge was accompanied on the Foreign Office balcony by the Countess of Wessex and Vice Admiral Tim Laurence. The Duke of Edinburgh, who joined the Royal Navy in 1939, wore the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet for the ceremony. Prince Harry, who has undertaken two tours of duty in Afghanistan, wore the uniform of Captain, Household Cavalry with the Army Air Corps beret.
The service at the Cenotaph is framed to ensure that no-one is forgotten. The wreath laid by The Queen and the other tributes placed on the Cenotaph are dedicated to all who have suffered or died in war. Members of the Cabinet, Opposition Party leaders, former Prime Ministers and certain other Ministers and the Mayor of London are invited to attend the ceremony, along with representatives of the Armed Forces, Merchant Air and Navy and Fishing Fleets, and members of faith communities.