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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 10:22 GMT


World: Europe

Remembering the sacrifice

Wreaths were laid in memory of the 8.5 million men who died


Kevin Connolly: The largest and most elaborate commemoration in years
Queen Elizabeth II and the French President Jacques Chirac have led a service in Paris to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Armistice, which ended World War I.

As veterans from around the world looked on, the British and French heads of state stood together at the Arc de Triomphe during the two minutes' silence.

World War 1:Special Section
President Chirac opened the service to commemorate the moment the guns fell silent at 1100 (local time) on the 11 November 1918.

The Last Post was played, followed by the British and French national anthems.


[ image: The bugle sounds in memory of the fallen]
The bugle sounds in memory of the fallen
Earlier, French troops marched down the Champs Elysees in the blue uniforms of the period, escorted by vintage vehicles.

Queen Elizabeth later unveiled special monuments to the Irish war dead and to Winston Churchill - Britain's leader during World War II.


Queen Elizabeth unveils the statue of Winston Churchill
British and other Commonwealth representatives were joined by French and Belgians at a wreath-laying ceremony in Ypres, the small Belgian town which was virtually destroyed during World War I.


Reverend Ray Oliver reads the prayer at the Ypres service
Army chaplain Reverend Ray Oliver read prayers - followed by a Flemish clergyman - at the Menin Gate in the centre of Ypres.

For the past 80 years those who fought and died in the war have been remembered at the Menin Gate every evening with the playing of the Last Post.

The tradition was interrupted only by the German occupation of Belgium between 1940 and 1944.


[ image: A carpet of poppies lies at the feet of dignitaries at Ypres]
A carpet of poppies lies at the feet of dignitaries at Ypres
The organisers released 55,000 poppies - each one commemorating a soldier who died on the battlefields around Ypres and was never given a proper grave.

Most of the former soldiers who have made the pilgrimage are more than 100 years old and require the support of wheelchairs and walking sticks. But their memories remain intact.

For many it will be the last time they will travel to France to attend a major anniversary of the end of the conflict and for this reason the commemorative events have taken on a special significance.


Guy Gruet, chairman of the Last Post committee in Ypres: "You cannot escape history"
Mr Chirac visited the clearing in the woods of Compiegne, north of Paris, where in a railway carriage, military chiefs of the allies and the German-led coalition signed the armistice ending the 1914-1918 war.

The bugle which first relayed news of the ceasefire to the trenches sounded again as President Chirac and the Queen attended the main ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.


[ image:  ]
As a symbol of reconciliation, the Queen and Irish President Mary McAleese dedicated a Peace Tower near Ypres' Menin Gate, to the Irish war dead from Catholic and Protestant traditions.


The Queen and Irish President Mary McAleese dedicate a Peace Tower to the Irish war dead
The Queen, together with the King of the Belgians, were at Ypres at dusk when the Last Post was played.

Back in Britain MPs in the House of Commons stood and bowed their heads while marking the two minutes' silence.

Row over mutineers


BBC Defence Correspondent Mark Laity analyses the historical legacy of World War I
The four years of World War I slaughter left more than 8.5 million soldiers dead. Among them were about 1.4 million Frenchmen.

To honour allied veterans, France is giving its top award, the Legion of Honour, to surviving soldiers.


[ image:  ]
Only a few are still alive but the war still arouses great passions in France. The anniversary has sparked a public row between Mr Chirac and Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin over attitudes to a mutiny by French soldiers.

Mr Jospin suggested last week that history should take a kinder view of the mutineers that were shot by a firing squad during a particularly bloody phase of the war.

But President Chirac's office issued a rare public put-down. Supporters of the conservative president suggested Mr Jospin was undermining military discipline.





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