11/13/2011

Royals lead the nation in remembrance

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Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, left, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Sophie, Countess of Wessex attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. (Reuters)

The Royal Family gathered in London on Sunday to lead Britain in its annual Remembrance Sunday in tribute to the country's war dead.

The Queen, wearing a black coat adorned with a cluster of poppies, led the procession, followed by the immediate family members: Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles,Prince William, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and the Duke of Kent. Absent was Prince Harry, who is still in the U.S., where he is doing military training.

Watching from the balcony at Whitehall were the duchesses of Cornall, Cambridge and Wessex. It was the first Remembrance ceremony for Kate as a member of the Royal Family. Her grandfather, Peter Middleton, trained pilots in Calgary during the war. He died last year at age 90.

This year marks the first time since Remembrance ceremonies began that there are no veterans of World War I. The last known WWI veteran, British-born Claude Choules, died in May in Australia at age 110. Canada's last veteran of the Great War, John Babcock, died in February 2010 at age 109.

The service at the Cenotaph was the centre of observances held across Britain and at their military posts worldwide.

The royals were joined by thousands of servicemen and an appreciative crowd that applauded the veterans who marched to the Cenotaph.

One group of women sang along as the band belted out popular old army marching songs, AP reported. "Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and smile, smile, smile," they sang, one wiping tears from her eyes.

The Queen placed the first wreath at the foot of the memorial, followed by Prince Philip, Charles and William, all wearing their military uniforms.

As Big Ben struck 11 a.m, heads were bowed for two minutes of silence.

The Queen was joined by Prime Minister David Cameron and several former prime ministers, including Tony Blair and John Major.

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Chelsea Pensioners march past the Cenotaph during the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London Nov. 13, 2011. About 7,500 veterans marched to the memorial. (Reuters)

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attends the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph. (Getty Images)

2011-11-13T143710Z_01_EDY18_RTRMDNP_3_ROYALSQueen Elizabeth closes her eyes during the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph. (Reuters)

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Queen Elizabeth lays a wreath at the foot of of the Cenotaph. (Reuters)

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Thousands gathered in London at the Cenotaph to honour Britain's war dead. (Getty Images)

 

 

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II led thousands of veterans and civilians in a tribute to the country's war dead at the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony.

The service at central London's Cenotaph war memorial, held on a sunny autumn morning, is a focal point of nationwide observances to honor those who lost their lives in fighting. Similar ceremonies were held in dozens of towns and cities throughout Britain and military outposts in Afghanistan and around the world.

The queen placed the first wreath at the foot of the memorial then bowed in front of the Cenotaph, with its inscription honoring "The Glorious Dead." She was followed by her husband, Prince Philip, her son, Prince Charles, and grandson Prince William.

From a nearby balcony, William's wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, looked on with other royal women.

The ceremony takes place every year on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, although the day now also pays tribute to the dead in all conflicts, including World War II and Afghanistan.

The royals were joined by thousands of servicemen and well-wishers who lined the sidewalks to applaud aging veterans as they marched past. Many of those watching were dressed in formal hats, suits and ties for the occasion, and almost everyone wore a red poppy — the official symbol of remembrance — on their lapel.

The crowds stood solemn and hushed as the military band played patriotic songs, and as the clock struck 11 a.m. all bowed their heads to observe a traditional two-minute silence, broken by a single artillery blast.

For veteran Steve Orton, those two minutes of reflection are the most poignant moments of the day.

"It's just being quiet," said Orton, 70, who served in places including Afghanistan and Ireland. "It's also quite emotional — it brings back a lot of memories."

A few feet away, a group of women sang along as the band belted out popular old army marching songs. "Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and smile, smile, smile," they sang, one wiping at her eyes as she looked on at the marching veterans.

For the first time, the events took place without a veteran of World War I. In May, the world's last known combat veteran of that war, Claude Choules, died in Australia aged 110.

The services were held as British troops continue to face hazardous operations in Afghanistan.

The queen was joined by Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition party leaders and several former prime ministers, including Tony Blair and John Major.

Britain observed two minutes' silence Friday to mark Armistice Day, and the English soccer team Saturday wore poppies on armbands to show support.

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