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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2005, 19:02 GMT
Poignant tribute to honour dead
By Jon Brain
BBC News

The Queen at the Cenotaph
The Queen led tributes at the Cenotaph

For once, the November weather was kind to the veterans who gathered yet again in their thousands to remember their fallen comrades.

Despite a slight chill in the air, the leaden skies that traditionally greet this most traditional of ceremonies had retreated to leave a bright autumnal day by the time they'd assembled near the Cenotaph.

Standing or seated in wheelchairs, and dressed in an assortment of military uniforms, they waited patiently on Whitehall to mark a ritual which has hardly changed in more than eight decades.

Heads bowed

As Big Ben struck 1100 GMT the sound of an artillery gun signalled the start of the silence.

Just two minutes long, but time enough to roll back the years as the former servicemen and women bowed their heads, many seemingly lost in their own thoughts.

Another shot to mark the end of the silence was followed by buglers sounding "The Last Post".

Then, dressed in black, the Queen walked forward and laid the first of a carpet of wreaths at the foot of the Cenotaph.

Human chain

Other members of the Royal Family followed before it was the turn of Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaders of the other main political parties at Westminster.

Then, more than 40 representatives of the Commonwealth added their floral tributes, turning the stone plinth of the memorial a vibrant red.

Crosses are planted in memory of fallen soldiers

Among the wreaths was one which bore a message which had been silently borne across the capital by a human chain of 20 veterans.

Passed by semaphore it began on the roof of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and moved its way along the River Thames via the Cutty Sark, HMS Belfast and HMS Vincent.

On arrival at Whitehall it was decrypted. The message, which even the veterans did not know beforehand, read: "War turns us to stone. In remembrance we shine and rise to new days."

March-past

Commissioned by the National Maritime Museum, it was the idea of artist Beth Derbyshire, who explained that she'd wanted to create a living memorial that would provide a "poignant and profound memory".

And poignancy was the order of the day. After a short service the veterans made their march past cheered on by the crowds lining the route.

Remembrance Sunday has lost none of its impact.




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