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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Last WWI veteran to be honoured
D-day veterans
A national memorial service will be held at Westminster Abbey
The death of the last-known veteran from World War I will be marked by a national memorial service, the government has announced.

The event at Westminster Abbey, to take place within about 12 weeks of when the passing of the veteran happens, will be a national commemoration of WWI.

It will echo the ceremony on 11 November 1920 when the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest and Cenotaph unveiled.

There are now thought to be fewer than 10 surviving World War I veterans.

A national memorial service will allow the whole nation to honour the valour and spirit shown by the veterans of World War I
Des Browne
Defence Secretary

The government had rejected calls for a state funeral for the last survivor of World War One and decided instead on a national memorial service for all that war's veterans.

Defence Secretary Des Browne announced the move in London on Tuesday as the first Veterans' Day events took place.

The decision was made after consultation with veterans from World War I.

'Great hardships'

"Millions of men and women from across the British Empire made great sacrifices serving their country in World War I," said Mr Browne. "Millions more endured the loss of their loved ones.

"A national memorial service will allow the whole nation to honour the valour and spirit shown by the veterans of World War I and will commemorate an entire generation."

Veterans minister Tom Watson added: "The World War I generation endured great hardships both on the front line and on the home front.

"Without their sacrifice the world would be a very different place today and we might not have the freedoms that we take for granted today."

Mr Watson paid tribute to the work of Dennis Godwin, chairman of the World War I Veterans Association, calling him a "tireless champion" of his generation.

He also praised former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has long pressed for a national commemoration when the final veteran of the war dies.

It is a real recognition of what I call the century of the common man
Iain Duncan Smith

Mr Duncan Smith said he was delighted a memorial service would take place, and said he had accepted that practical difficulties had ruled out MPs' original calls for a state funeral to be held.

He added: "I am over the moon that the government has agreed to this. It is a real recognition of what I call the century of the common man."

Some veterans attending events at the Imperial War Museum also voiced their support for a memorial service.

Lewis Prangle, 86, from Winchester, served with the Royal Hampshire Regiment during World War II.

"I agree with that," he said. "I also think that those poor lads that suffered shell shock and distress during the first war should not have been shot and should be honoured now.

"It wasn't their fault. I have experience of shell shock and I know what they must have gone through."

Veterans' Day - to be held every 27 June to celebrate the contribution and achievements made by ex-military personnel - this year featured more than 180 events across the country.


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