From bases in Afghanistan, on board Royal Navy ships, at RAF stations and in Army barracks around the world, the British Service community has honoured the fallen of military campaigns past and present.
In London’s Whitehall some 4,500 Service personnel and veterans gathered at the Cenotaph to take part in the Remembrance Sunday march past.
Her Majesty The Queen was the first to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph to commemorate those servicemen and women killed in military action since the First World War.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, also attended the service along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Chiefs of Staff, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey, and opposition leader Ed Miliband.
Her Majesty stood metres from the Cenotaph, eyes fixed on the memorial, while behind the sovereign stood members of the Royal Family including Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of York, The Earl of Wessex, The Princess Royal and The Duke of Kent.
Soldiers from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery fired an artillery round from nearby Horse Guards Parade which echoed around Whitehall to signal the end of the two minutes’ silence.
As the echoes of the blast faded, buglers of the Royal Marines sounded the haunting melody of the Last Post, which traditionally signalled the end of a soldier’s day.
Meanwhile, HRH Prince William of Wales paid a surprise visit to British troops in Afghanistan and joined them for a Remembrance Sunday service during which he laid a wreath in memory of the fallen.
The Prince was joined by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox for the surprise visit to Camp Bastion, Helmand province, where they joined about 2,500 Service personnel for the Remembrance Sunday service on the camp’s parade square.
A two-minute silence was observed, after which Prince William laid a wreath bearing the note: ‘For Jo, Lex and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.’
The Prince wrote a special piece, published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, in which he described how humbled he is by the respect shown for fallen heroes. In the article, His Royal Highness wrote:
The country is as fervent today in its support for our Armed Forces and the sacrifices that they make as it has ever been.
The awareness of what young men and women are doing for us in the most extreme and hostile environments imaginable is striking and moving. I find this remarkable and, frankly, humbling…
After the visit, Prince William said the occasion was extremely important to him, not only to remember personal friends he had lost, but everyone who has lost their lives in the line of duty.
Also in Afghanistan, the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA) Battle Group took time out from their tasks in Patrol Base 2, Helmand province, to remember those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice doing their duty.
The short service was attended by approximately 100 officers and soldiers from the Battle Group, representing a range of regiments and ranks. It lasted for approximately five minutes and included a two-minute silence, the Airborne Forces Collect and the Lord’s Prayer.
The two-minute silence was interrupted by small arms fire from an enemy contact involving C (Bruneval) Company, 2 PARA, only a few kilometres away, which gave great poignancy to the event. Commanding Officer of 2 PARA, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Harrison, recognised the importance of maintaining military traditions whilst also noting the irony of the gunfire in the background during the remembrance service:
The remembrance service and two-minute silence is a tradition that we maintain to honour those who have fallen before us in this conflict and in previous conflicts,” he said. “There is a certain irony during our two-minute silence today that the only two interruptions were those of small arms fire and the birdsong.
Similar acts of remembrance took place across the UK and around the world from patrol bases in Afghanistan to Royal Navy ships in the Indian Ocean.
In Plymouth, Flag Officer Sea Training Rear Admiral Chris Snow joined the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Mary Aspinall, in laying a wreath.
Rear Admiral Snow said:
The November ceremonies bring our past and present together. Whether we recall the brave men and women of past conflicts, or our forces today in Afghanistan and across the world, this focus for our respect is a central event for the entire nation to reflect on the meaning and cost of war.
In Tangiers, Morocco, thirteen graves, twelve belonging to airmen killed over the western Mediterranean during World War Two, and one to Sergeant Terence Henning, a member of the Gibraltar Security Police killed in an explosion in February 1942, lie in the graveyard of St Andrews Church.
There, RAF officer Flight Lieutenant Sean Flynn laid a wreath on the grave of an airman ‘Known only to God’, whilst the Chief Police Officer of the Gibraltar Defence Police, Superintendent Rob Allen, laid a wreath on Sergeant Henning’s grave. Further wreaths were laid by the British Ambassador to Morocco, Mr Timothy Morris.